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History of the Department of Design

Early History of the Department of Design

The roots of the Department of Design at The Ohio State University can be found in the Department of Art, where programs in interior design, industrial design, and commercial art were offered starting in the mid-twentieth century. In 1960, Professor Donald Wood (Industrial Design) participated with representatives of twenty-seven other programs to establish The National Compilation of Industrial Design Curricula for the Industrial Design Education Association. It is here that the 1962 educational objectives for OSU's industrial design program are spelled out.

"The program in professional design was intended to provide an educational environment unifying the major fields of design through the basic knowledge, methods, and values, which are commonly shared. It concentrated on the training of designers, competent in their fields, but equipped to assume higher levels of leadership in research and development teams in planning and design for positive human benefit."

"The professional design program operated upon the assumption that new creative design leadership was essential to advancing knowledge and improving technology with respect to environmental products, shelter, and visual communication. It recognized that the utilization of comprehensive design techniques with initiative, sensitivity, and ingenuity could best be developed with a university environment where identification with, and interrelationships between the arts, sciences, and humanities can be explored, and where high levels of research and development activities may be sustained."

"The program of study for professional design majors was linked by a common core program, and special seminars throughout the final two years of specialization, in order to develop a consistent depth of knowledge and understanding of the scope and responsibility of the designer as specialist."

"The design areas were related to one another by a strongly integrated instructional pattern, a unity of purpose, and a continual close collaboration within its own and other instructional disciplines." (1960)

At this time, the faculty associated with design instruction included Donald G. Wood (Design Area Chairman), Associate Professor Phyllis Krumm and Assistant Professors James Baughman, Leonard Kitts, Charles Wallschlaeger and Fred Zimmer, and Instructor Roger Horn.

In 1963, The School of Fine and Applied Art changed its name to The School of Art and the Design Area altered its program titles. Industrial Design became "Product Design."  Interior Design became "Space and Enclosure."  Advertising Design shifted to "Visual Communication Design."  Product Design situated itself within the context of environmental design and planning, concentrating on the study of "problems contingent to mans' physical environment needs and of the means by which intelligent design activity could be directed towards the evaluation of living standards on a global scale" with an emphasis on the "study, analysis, and development of the essential tools, implements, equipment, and product systems for living in a complex and rapidly changing world."  Space and Enclosure Design addressed the design of "the large scale working and living environment for man, with an emphasis on interior habitation."  Visual Communication Design described its emphasis as a focus on "art and design disciplines relative to economic factors, the new technologies, contemporary socio-psychological principles, and allied visual art forms."  All three programs incorporated field experience into their curriculum.

In 1964-65, a Master of Arts degree with a Design specialization was first offered. The area at this time was led by Fred Zimmer and new assistant professors James Baughman and Colin Clipson joined the faculty. The first visiting professor from Germany also appeared at this time with the hosting of Professor Herbert Lindinger from the Hochschule fur Gestaltung, in Ulm, Germany. This visit represents the initiation of a long series of international faculty exchanges that continued throughout the 1970s and 80s, some of which led to the hiring of permanent faculty from Germany, Italy, England, and Switzerland.

In 1967-68, Acting Chairman Charles Wallschlaeger, Visiting Professor Reinhart Butter, and Instructor Guenther Tetz wrote a proposal for restructuring the design curriculum into a four year program that shifted the focus of learning from art to more design-specific courses. This proposal was accepted by the Dr. Jerome Hausman, Director of the School of Art, and the school's curriculum committee. The following year, more radical changes occurred in the form of the elimination of the School of Art in favor of a reorganized College of Arts that included Divisions of Art, Art Education, Dance, Design, History of Art, Theatre and a School of Music. At this point, the Division of Design initiated a series of international study tours created by Professor Fred Zimmer. These study opportunities spanned Western Europe and offered students the chance to visit design schools, design offices as well as museums, establishing a long tradition of exposing OSU design students to European design practices.

The faculty grew at this time to include two more visiting professionals from Europe (Tonci Pelikan, graphic designer from Stuttgart, Germany and Reudi Ruegg, graphic designer from the J. Muller-Brockman Office in Zurich, Switzerland) and eight full-time faculty, including George Burden who joined the faculty from London, England. Professor Burden was a practicing designer who studied at Hochschule fur Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany and at the Royal College of Art, London, England.

The formation of the College of Arts in 1968 established the study of design as an independent educational endeavor at Ohio State. The faculty focused on design as a process of problem definition and problem solution using knowledge and skills that are drawn from the human and social sciences as well as technology. The new division included only two fields:  Product and Visual Communication Design. Faculty members associated with Space and Enclosure Design remained in the Division of Art for one year but it moved back into the Design Division in 1968-69. 

The 1970s saw the first alumni exhibition of graduates of the Design programs and a student exchange program was created by Professors Reinhart Butter and Peter Megert. The Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) sanctioned the Industrial Design program in 1974 and the department took that name. Heike Goeller joined the faculty to teach interior design starting in the 1978-79 academic year. She joined Chairperson Charles Wallschlaeger, Professors Reinhart Butter, Donald Wood (emeritus), and Fred Zimmer; Associate Professors Shirley Olsen (Jones), Joseph Koncelik, Peter Megert; and other Assistant Professors Fabio Fabiano and Dean Lindsay. Eight visiting faculty from Switzerland and Germany spent time teaching in the department that same year. This created a very vibrant and international learning environment that extended into the 1980s.

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing project. Be sure to check back as we continue to work through documenting our history after 1980.