KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University’s new 28,000-square-foot Richmond Institute for Design and Innovation will be formally unveiled Thursday, Sept. 27, during a grand opening ceremony from 3 to 5 p.m. in Central Kohrman Hall.
Renovations to create a new location for WMU’s year-old product design program on the first and third floors of Central Kohrman Hall began in December and were completed this summer in time for fall classes.
The institute features studios, presentation spaces and laboratories dedicated to innovation, fabrication, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, woodworking and metalworking.
Following a short, formal program Thursday, ceremony attendees may tour the institute.
The nearly $7 million project to renovate Central Kohrman Hall to support the needs of an innovative product design program was made possible by corporate and individual donors, including Jim and Lois Richmond. The Kalamazoo-area couple, both alumni and longtime WMU benefactors, contributed $3 million to the project.
The institute “is truly far beyond anything we ever imagined it would become,” Jim Richmond said. “Just a few weeks ago, Lois and I had the honor of touring the building, which included getting a detailed description of each area and how students will use this creative layout, working independently and in groups on design projects.”
The institute named for the Richmonds is home to WMU’s new product design program, a degree that draws its curriculum from fine arts, engineering and business to develop professionals who will specialize in designing products that combine form, function and manufacturing.
Launched in fall 2017 with its first cohort of students, the program was created to meet current and future design and manufacturing needs in southwest Michigan and beyond.
“From my first days on campus five years ago, it was apparent that our local corporations had a great need for design talent,” said Daniel Guyette, dean of WMU’s College of Fine Arts. “There were dozens of positions they could not fill, and this was impacting their ability to compete and thrive. As a state university, it’s our responsibility to meet the needs of our state and region by providing quality programs to educate our young adults for promising careers. That’s why we created the product design program and the Richmond Institute for Design and Innovation, and the response from students and the corporate community has been exceptional.”
The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in product design combines coursework in the College of Fine Arts’ Gwen Frostic School of Art, the Haworth College of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In addition to their University-based studies, students pursuing the product design B.F.A. are placed within industry settings during summer residencies with the anticipation that those positions will become permanent jobs after graduation.
Southwest Michigan companies involved include FabriKal, Eaton, Landscape Forms, Stryker, Newell Brands, Whirlpool and Tekna. Bob Brown and the Monroe-Brown Foundation provided key initial funding, and area economic development agency Southwest Michigan First has been an important resource as well.
Learn more about the product design program at wmich.edu/productdesign.