DESIGNS ON THE FUTURE
COLLEGE FOR CREATIVE STUDIES
WRITTEN BY IVAN CARVALHO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEFAN JERMANN
DETROIT’S DEPICTION IN THE NATIONAL MEDIA PAINTS A PICTURE OF A CITY THAT IS A POSTER CHILD FOR URBAN DECAY. YET NOW MANY LOCALS AND NEW ARRIVALS ARE BUSY FINDING WAYS TO REVIVE DETROIT’S FORTUNES IN NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE MIDTOWN AND THERE’S AN INTEREST IN PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION TO KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING. ONE KEY PLAYER IN THIS IS THE COLLEGE FOR CREATIVE STUDIES (CCS).
CCS traces its roots back to 1906 when a group of local civic leaders, inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement, formed the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The group’s aim was to keep the ideals of beauty and craftsmanship alive in what was fast becoming a hyper-industrialized world of assembly lines and heavy duty factory work. Founding members of CCS sought to teach informal classes on drawing, woodcarving and design.
Given its home in Detroit, the school was one of the first to recognize automotive design as an important element and that tradition continues. Many students at CCS pursue a degree here in order to procure jobs later at the big automakers just down the road – interestingly, it’s estimated that 80 percent of the student body hails from the state of Michigan and it’s clear many like to work local after earning their degree. During a visit to the CCS campus MIRUS saw students crafting car models by hand, some carving and sanding a piece of wood in order to create a prototype that you can touch as opposed to fancy 3D-modeling that sits on a computer screen. Fields like illustration and product design aren’t overlooked, however. Today, if you drive by the new Carhartt flagship store in Midtown there’s a towering mural the Michigan retailer commissioned that was executed by CCS grads.
Currently CCS operates two campuses, both closely tied with the city's history. The first site is the 1958 Yamasaki Building designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who went on to build the World Trade Center in New York. Its second, and more recent, campus sits inside the Argonaut Building, which was designed by prominent Detroit architect Albert Kahn. The structure originally was owned by General Motors, which ran its engineering and design facility out of here. “This building was where the very discipline of automotive design was developed,” says Rick Rogers, President of CCS.
The Argonaut is the site of a new approach by CCS, one that looks to engage younger generations, some still not old enough for the university program, and get them thinking about design during their formative years. “The vision was to have middle class, high school, college and graduate students all studying art and design on a single site. And we have creative businesses in the building that serve as role models for students,” adds Rogers.
A key partner in bridging the gap between school and the workplace is Shinola, which occupies one floor of CCS and has lots of face time with the student body on a regular basis. Interns who’ve studied photography or industrial design at CCS team up with the lifestyle brand and are immediately thrown into the challenges of the working world. Shinola gets access to talented young minds who are involved from the get-go on projects dealing with branding, bicycle design, watch design and fashion accessory design. Given Shinola’s push to promote hand-made products, the internship project is a win-win situation since it helps to uphold the institution’s founding principle to support craftsmanship.