“Interdisciplinarity” may be a design school buzzword right now, but for product design teacher Andrea Ruggiero, it has always been a natural way of working. His own practice ranges from packaging, brand identity, and furniture to interiors and award-winning products. (A bike rack he recently co-designed with Jeff Miller was a finalist in the NYC CityRacks Design Competition.)
Although his courses focus on product design, Ruggiero’s multidisciplinary experience enables him to help students look at design from different perspectives. “I think it’s very valuable for students to approach design in this way,” he says. “It’s very current and also useful because there is a lot of crossover between the disciplines.” For example, Ruggiero points out that the visual qualities that attract people to a chair or a car are similar to those that make someone look twice at a movie poster. “Humans respond very strongly to graphical elements, colors, and patterns,” he says. “The strongest forms are graphical in nature. They create an immediate visual connection that can be very stimulating.”
A certain aesthetic is not the only thing that well-designed products have in common, however. Ruggiero also finds that behind every design task, no matter how complex or simple, is a universal problem-solving process. “The steps are always researching a context, identifying the problem, generating several solutions, and focusing on one solution to then refine,” he explains.
Ruggiero is a Parsons alumnus himself, who started teaching shortly after his own graduation in the mid-1990s. So what is it like to teach in the school that he himself attended? “There’s a certain comfort level in being so familiar with the place, but it’s also funny sometimes because I can see certain things from a student’s perspective,” he muses. “It’s also very encouraging to see how much the school has improved and how it keeps getting better.”