Design and Merchandising launches new concentration in product development

The Department of Design and Merchandising unveiled a new concentration in product development for the Apparel and Merchandising Bachelor of Science degree last fall.

The new concentration bridges the gap between apparel design and merchandising. Product development moves design concepts forward to create approved products for manufacture. It involves assessing aesthetic qualities, technical requirements (like materials, fit, construction and performance attributes) and cost factors.

Student Brian King describes a medic bag design.
Student Brian King describes a medic bag design.

Students who select the new concentration study consumer and trend research, idea formation, product specification, materials procurement, prototyping, sourcing, quality assurance, pricing strategies and new business creation.

“From market research to materials sourcing to transportation costs, there is so much that goes into the development of a product,” said Cory Hibbard, an alumna of the CSU program who is now a design production artist at Pearl Izumi. “CSU’s teachings in product development gave me insight into the details, processes and teamwork necessary for building great products and established a base of knowledge for my career in product creation.”

First class offered in 2009

The department’s first course in product development, offered in 2009, was created by Associate Professor Juyeon Park as a partnership with a well-known local outdoor/athletic apparel company to provide students with a “real-life” experiential learning opportunity. The class meets with company representatives on the CSU campus and at the company’s headquarters throughout the semester to foster learning that simulates industry practices and processes and to immerse students in practical problem-solving.

Student Ben Gerding discusses a kite design.
Student Ben Gerding discusses a kite design.

“I am very excited to see the new concentration in product development come to fruition after several years of efforts in curriculum development,” Park said. “The industry partnerships have successfully helped students embark on their career in product development, and I expect to see more students benefit from practical knowledge and industry networks through the new concentration program. This program will be perfect for those students who are interested in developing technology-oriented, performance products for outdoor industries, or explore novel product ideas for society in general.”

The success of the initial course — along with feedback from former students indicating a need for more coursework in product development — prompted and informed the department’s efforts to establish the new concentration. Over the past five years, under the guidance of Park, new courses as well as revisions to existing courses have been developed to establish the curriculum for the new concentration.

‘Invaluable benefits’

ProductDevelopment2“The benefits of having CSU and its Design and Merchandising program in our backyard has been invaluable,” said CJ Riggins, founder of apparel and design consultant Precipice LLC. “It’s a win/win for all: students, companies and CSU. Students gain experience in a corporate environment, understanding expectations that they will soon be professionally handling themselves. Companies gain fresh ideas and insight from eager, motivated individuals interested in making their mark on the world, and CSU can react immediately to changing market demands because they are listening to those companies they have established strong ties to in the relevant industry.”

In recent years, product development has become an important thread in the advancement of the apparel and merchandising program by providing meaningful experiential learning opportunities for students and by fostering mutually beneficial relationships with Colorado companies. Colorado’s prospering outdoor/athletic apparel industry in particular provides a unique opportunity for faculty and students to partner in teaching/learning activities with companies developing technically advanced performance apparel. Today, many apparel and merchandising alumni are applying their knowledge and skills in product development on a daily basis and establishing successful careers with outdoor/athletic apparel companies founded or headquartered in Colorado, including Spyder, Pearl Izumi and Smartwool.

“Together my classmates and I learned how to study the consumers of a proposed product through actual target market surveying and used that data to guide our decisions as the process continued,” alumna Hibbard said. “I value that collaboration is emphasized during the product development course at CSU. It has prepared me for the continual interaction and problem-solving with workplace peers that is essential to making the best end product possible. I am so grateful CSU offered me the opportunity to learn about the dynamic, challenging and rewarding world of product development.”