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DCAD launches new product design program

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The Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington has launched a new product design program. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – The Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) has launched a new online program to teach product design, which it expects will benefit corporate employers that fill many of the high-rises around its Market Street campus.

The 12-week, full-time program will teach students user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design for web applications, setting them up for potentially lucrative career opportunities in the greater Philadelphia region. According to federal statistics, web developers and digital designers earned a median salary of $78,300 nationwide last year and jobs in the industry are expected to grow by 23% over the next decade, adding more than 45,000 jobs nationwide.

DCAD President Jean Dahlgren | PHOTO COURTESY OF DCAD

DCAD President Jean Dahlgren told Delaware Business Times that as the college celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, its leadership began thinking about how to prepare students for the next 25 years, and they quickly turned to how grads could benefit from surrounding industry in Wilmington.

“People don’t think we have anything to do with credit card companies and banks, and yet the interfaces that you use to interact with the 21st century banking are indeed art and design,” she noted.

The DCAD program is a non-degree, non-certificate program, but features the industry-recognized curriculum by The Flatiron School, a New York-based, for-profit educational organization that remotely teaches product design, coding, software engineering, cybersecurity, and more. Dahlgren said that she views the program as complementary to its six core Associate degree programs, which includes graphic design, illustration and animation.

“It’s perfect for people changing jobs. It’s perfect for our graduates who want one extra very-industry-specific thing,” she added.

Lise Dubé-Scherr, DCAD dean of professional development and continuing education, said the college really wanted to find career pathways for “creatives into tech.”

After researching different potential partner organizations and schools, Dubé-Scherr identified the New York City-based Flatiron School as the preferred choice.

“They’ve been around for 10 years now in the tech education space, and really sort of have a deep understanding of that. And they also have exceptionally deep connections with industry, which was also really appealing,” she explained, noting that DCAD students would get six hours of career coaching from Flatiron. “DCAD is small and … we needed a partner who had those pathways for us and for our students so that they could find their way to the industry.”

The school plans to host its first cohort of up to 12 students in the product design program starting in January, with additional cohorts starting in May and September. An introductory webinar on the program is scheduled for noon Dec. 1, with registration at DCAD.edu. The school also plans to convene an advisory group from employers in and around the city who will look to potentially hire DCAD grads on their future workforce needs. 

The college is also exploring creating a shorter-term program around data visualization, which could be an add-on educational opportunity for different professionals in the technology sector, Dubé-Scherr said.

“It’ll be sort of a part time, 36-hour-type course where someone who’s already working can come in and do that course online to add to their skill sets,” she said.

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