Industry and School Partnerships Impulse Tomorrow’s Designers

Chicago, famous for its traditional and innovative design, architecture and art, boasts world-class institutions that form an incubator for up and coming industrial design professionals. At S&B Finishing, we’re honored to have the opportunity to make a small contribution in the formation of this enthusiastic pool of young talent through our education partnerships.

Annual projects with local higher education institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois (UIC), Columbia College and most recently, DePaul University, offered free of charge are a way S&B Finishing gives back to the community. Over the years, the company has opened its doors for local K-12 schools to tour the facilities as field trips, as well as a chess club.

“Ongoing partnerships with higher education institutions in the Chicago area are one way we demonstrate our deep respect for the teachers who work so diligently to train, educate and orient the future generation of design professionals,” says S&B Finishing President Kenny Spielman. “The enthusiasm and professionalism of the students we have worked with over the years is phenomenal. Our annual projects are something everyone at our facility looks forward to. “

Industrial Design contact helps prepare students for professional life

The real-world experience that industry partners bring to schools tremendously benefits educators and students alike. Exposure to how the fabrication industry really works helps students better understand the lay of the land and be prepared for life as a design professional. 

Similarly, having the inside scoop on what’s happening in industrial design gives educators more tools to equip students with critical elements to help them develop a competitive edge. On the flipside, industry has much to gain from these alliances as young people emerge from the education system with skills and know-how pertinent to what’s really needed in the workplace and knowledgeable as future clients.

“Working with industry professionals is so useful for students,” says Charlie Trowbridge, a senior industrial design student at DePaul University in Chicago which recently partnered with S&B Finishing. “One of our classes earlier in the year was completely focused on working with and finishing metals, so getting to actually design in steel and then have that part made and finished professionally really emphasized what we had learned in the classroom.”

Projects have included art exhibits to highly engineered and laser cut products.

Take a look at 3 amazing different Urban Farm Projects helping green up Chicago in the S&B Finishing parking lot and surrounding grounds on West Franklin Street.

New experience for young consulting group

The partnership between S&B and a group of students that make up DePaul’s Industrial Design consulting group led by faculty member Jayson Margalus, centered around designing a shelving system for a new computer lab on campus. This particular project involved working with a steel fabricator to make the brackets then powder coat. Trowbridge reached out to S&B, located close to his home, optimistic that he would be able to visit and see samples of the gray color they needed to match.

“Kenny was incredibly helpful with filling in my gaps on powder coating, even inviting me out to look at their sample room,” he says. “It was really helpful working one-on-one directly with Kenny who helped us to figure out what we needed to achieve the results we were looking for.”

The team gained a better understanding of powder coating and metal finishing. He expects that this experience with fabrication and coating will be super helpful to himself and his classmates as industrial designers. I think that it’s really important as an industrial designer to have an idea of what you need when you go to a fabricator.”

Real world experience builds student confidence

In terms of the skills and knowledge that can be gained through this sort of project, Trowbridge points to getting an inside view of how things get made and the logistics associated with that process.

While it’s typical that schools do hypothetical projects, the group has appreciated the challenge that comes with actually doing real world projects and working with commercial clients. “Getting to work with steel or with industrial processes like powder coating is usually out of reach in an educational setting, so having this experience has been incredibly exciting.”

Jay Margalus, Faculty Director of Maker Innovation, highly recommends such partnership to other professors and colleges.

“Personally, I think I’ll be better prepared and better informed when I work with firms such as S&B in the future. I feel that because of this project and because of the help we got from S&B, I’ll be much more able to work with professional shops when I enter the workforce,” concludes Trowbridge.

Spielman adds, “As today’s upcoming artists and designers become well-versed in the fabrication and the finishing processes, we are excited to see how they enhance our city and our world with the functional designs, artwork and monuments they create in the future.”