The Importance of Connecting with Design Students – Crossville A&D Design Studio Partnership

UT design students at Crossville's booth at NeoconYou may have read the news that Crossville led a design studio at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville’s College of Architecture and Design and its School of Interior Architecture. This partnership was an excellent opportunity to connect with students and teach them the important ins and outs of tile specification at a critical juncture in their professional training. As part of the studio, students had to create design concepts that focused on the application of tile. Based on the merits of those designs, four students were rewarded with a trip to NeoCon to experience not only our booth at the show but also to see a broader perspective of the commercial design industry as a whole.

“We are so appreciative of Crossville and the opportunity they gave us at NeoCon,” UT student Mary Morgan Smith said. “Allowing us to be present and experience the newest trends gave us exposure to a new side of design outside of the classroom.”

The program and subsequent trip was a great success. Just as the students gained lots of practical knowledge, so did we at Crossville. The studio proved to be a powerful collaboration that allowed all involved to receive lots of valuable insights. Here’s what we at Crossville learned about the value and importance of connecting with design students.

There’s a great need for tile-specific education for design students. Our design studio was strategically targeted to UT’s fourth year interior architecture students. These budding professionals had been steeped in a range of learning and were on the brink of prestigious summer internships that are required as part of the program. However, the topic of tile as a material had not yet been directly and thoroughly addressed for these students. By bringing them intensive education on tile, we connected at a pivotal point in their college experiences. Of course, every university program is structured uniquely and topic focus can vary greatly from institution to institution, but we often find that design students are not introduced to tile with the detail and constructive insight necessary to address its specification immediately in real working environments.

Students have specification influence in their professional internships. We were so pleased to learn from our Neocon student attendees that they are already specifying our tile in their summer internships. Each of the students had landed positions with impressive design firms across the map, and they were presented with lots of hands-on, practical experience out of the gate. Part of that experience for three of the four had already involved the specification of tile for projects in progress for their firms. Not only were we affirmed in having provided the knowledge they needed to make those specifications properly, but we were also excited to know they had deferred to the brand they know best: Crossville. The bigger lesson for us is that students can and do have influence over materials selection as part of their internships, so reaching them during their student years is important.

When connecting with design students, we need to listen to learn. Design students’ insights can benefit us many ways, just as our industry knowledge can help them. Student collaboration should be a two-way communications opportunity, for sure. Here’s an example why. One of our most beneficial takeaways from our interactions with the four students who joined us at Neocon is that they go to Pinterest first to start researching materials, furnishings, and general design ideas. We already are aware that practicing designers use Pinterest quite actively, but it was helpful to hear that those still in school are also on board with this social platform. Now we are even more focused on use of our Pinterest account to reach specifying designers. This is one representation of the countless reasons we aim to hear and learn from those we want to educate; they are at heart of the industry and will create its future going forward.

UT students and professor with Crossville executives at Neocon

What’s next for Crossville programs for A&D university students?

With the success of this first studio partnership under our belts, we are looking forward to future opportunities to connect with and educate design students. This program was quite involved and time intensive for all parties involved, and the results certainly made it worthwhile for everyone. We will continue to prioritize student collaboration at the corporate level. Beyond this program organized through our Crossville, Tennessee headquarters, many of our A&D representatives find ways to bring knowledge to A&D students in their regions across the U.S. on a regular basis. From presenting to classes to supporting programs through associations like IIDA and ASID, we advocate for design student learning and education. It’s a fundamental way we hope to bring creative solutions to the industry and make the specification of tile a way to solve design challenges beautifully.