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This Parsons Certificate Brings Products to Life

June 1, 2022

Our newest certificate provides an introduction to the manufactured object and allows students to bring innovative product ideas into reality. Students will learn to design, prototype, and launch their products while applying sustainable, social, political, and ecological principles. Matthew Hoey, Parsons faculty, certificate coordinator, and practicing industrial designer/architect, gave us an inside look at what makes the Parsons Product Design certificate unique.

Matthew HoeyHoey's "2028 Stool" design, 3D Printed by Materialise using stereolithography. "By 2028 design files will be crisscrossing the globe in lieu of products," Hoey said.

Why did you create this certificate?
I treat it as a design commission; I'm designing the certificate. I've also been working on a manuscript on the same subject, so it gives me an opportunity to test out my teaching strategies. I think about it from the students' perspective: how can I provide an exciting and interesting learning experience?

What is your personal and professional experience with product design?
I was trained as an architect. A building typically takes a full team of architects, engineers, and consultants to pull together, and in the process, the designer's intentions inevitably get watered down, whereas a product is a small piece of architecture that can more easily be created independently as a one-off. My first chair was displayed in Barney's windows on Madison Avenue in 1994, so I thought perhaps I can make a career out of this.

What is your past experience at Parsons?
I started teaching in the continuing education program in 2004, teaching Innovative Materials, Furniture Design and Product Design for the Home. Based on the success of those CE courses, I was invited into the Product Design program where I taught Materials & Manufacturing Processes for a decade. I turned a lecture course into [a partial] studio as the students wanted to make things using the materials and processes we were studying. After Parsons, I was invited to teach in the Masters of Industrial Design [MID] program at Pratt Institute.

How did you use your past experience in product design to write the curriculum? How will you use your past experience to teach students?
I teach my own step-by-step design process. After they get out of school, of course they will each develop their own methodology. How did I do it? How can I share my past failures and successes so that they can stand on my shoulders? So that they do not have to repeat the same mistakes I made. I lead them into the dark tunnel of design and help guide them through to the light at the end.


Parsons Product Design The LfSpring Lounge is a collaboration between Matthew Hoey and Edelman Leather. The base is a Leaf Spring (made of spring steel) so it depresses when you sit in it and helps lift you up as you go to get out.


How can the Product Design certificate help students launch new products?
The certificate is an introduction to product design. It consists of three courses: Product Design Foundations, How To Prototype a New Product Idea, and How to Launch a New Product Idea. At the end of a typical design studio, students have a cardboard model and a slideshow presentation of their "Shark Tank" idea. This "final" presentation is really just the beginning; ideally, what should happen next is to continue to prototype and bring the product to market. And so, that's the idea behind this certificate: How to design products that the world actually needs, that solve problems sustainably.

How will this certificate prepare students for the current economy?
The traditional economy is linear, "take, make, waste," also known as "cradle to grave." This certificate will help prepare students for the transformation to a circular economy, a closed-loop system where we'll learn to circulate products and materials, otherwise known as "cradle to cradle." Nature as a role model. Sadly, the only species on the planet who do not currently live sustainably with the planet are modern humans.

What makes Parsons a unique place to study product design?
Because Parsons has both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Product/ Industrial Design. And because Parsons has a state-of-the-art Making Center whose resources we can tap into. It just makes good sense!

Learn more about the new Product Design certificate! The first course, Product Design Foundations, starts August 29.

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