Tech Talent Crunch

Study Urges NYC to Train Local Design Schools in New Technologies for the Next Wave of Innovators

Why shouldn't your next UI designer come from FIT?
4941770 timgunn 240 Study Urges NYC to Train Local Design Schools in New Technologies for the Next Wave of Innovators

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Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corporation may at the top of the list for tech-happiest city governments, but a new study out by the Center for an Urban Future wonders if there’s one sector they’ve been missing: the city’s wealth of design and architecture schools like Parsons The New School for Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts .

The 38-page report, called “Designing New York’s Future,” points out that the number of degrees in design and architecture has grown 40 percent in New York City from 2005 to 2010 and the sector already attracts foreign students (*cough* Technion *cough*). Despite all that, however, design schools have been overlooked as part of the city’s innovation agenda, argues the report:

“Many of those we interviewed believe that design—and the city’s design schools—will play an even more important role in New York’s eco- nomic future. One reason for this is that design clearly plays to New York’s strength as a creative center. Additionally, major companies in technol- ogy, manufacturing, health care and other leading industries are increasingly looking to designers to help them solve challenges and come up with innovative solutions. As one example, New York- based Internet companies such as Foursquare, Tumblr, Gilt Groupe and Kickstarter have relied on innovative designs to turn already established technologies into entirely new tools and services.”

But while the tech sector has its new applied sciences campus and number of incubators, including EDC-backed GA, the design sector only has a new fashion design incubator at the CFDA. What’s more, many design school grads aren’t being taught the basics of business. Only 12 percent of respondents said NYC design schools provided “significant opportunities to develop business and entrepreneurial skills.”

The real oversight, however, seems to be in cultivating interdisciplinary programs like Stanford’s Institute of Design, or d.school, a one-year post-graduate certificate that attracts a number of b-schoolers.

Ryan Jacoby, a d.school alum and director of IDEO’s New York office, for example, told the Center for an Urban Future that IDEO will often pick Stanford as a recruiting ground over other schools “just so they can participate in the d.school.”

One such interdisciplinary field the city might want to focus on? Video game design. NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts recently launched an MFA program in game design with resources from NYU Poly and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. But demand is growing, says Ed Schlossberg, founder of the New York-based design firm ESI Design:

“Game design is growing rap- idly here,” Schlossberg says, “and it needs people who know about music design and screen design and story-boarding. There’s a whole new division called physics design, which involves taking what you learn in physics and applying it to the cre- ation of these online, virtual worlds.” Schlossberg says that the technologies that have given rise to this and other fields have revolutionized his own discipline in the last few years and that in order to stay competitive he has had to find people, often recent graduates, who not only know how they work but can apply them creatively in new contexts.

We already know one rapidly growing gaming company that’s hiring.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com