Steve Jobs stood at the intersection of arts and technology—an intersection Walter Isaacson acknowledged in his biography, writing, “In all of his products, technology would be married to great design, elegance, human touches and even romance.”
The earlier entrepreneurs realize they need artists and designers, the better. That sentiment is one they’ve spread at the Rhode Island School of Design, where students are looking at entrepreneurship as a viable career option.
“A RISD education is about innovation and risk-taking,” says Gregory Victory, director of the institute’s Career Center. Although at RISD, entrepreneurship is referred to as “artrepreneurship,” and is approached with a more creative eye.
“We’re trying to get people to understand artists and designers don’t just make things pretty,” Victory admits. “Artists and designers can make things happen.” What RISD students bring to any startup is a strong work ethic, adaptability and flexibility, which Victory summarizes into one word: “scrappy.” As Y Combinator founder Paul Graham once said:
Someone who’s scrappy manages to be both threatening and undignified at the same time. Which seems to me exactly what one would want to be, in any kind of work. If you’re not threatening, you’re probably not doing anything new, and dignity is merely a sort of plaque.
At the end of the day, engineers can create a device, but designers make the device accessible. When engineers and financiers are looking for the answers, artists are asking the questions. “They’re wired to ask,” Victory says.
To help harness the entrepreneurial spirt at RISD, the Career Center has broadened their resources both on and offline. The school’s exclusive network, powered by Behance, gives students, faculty and alumni the ability to connect with other members of the RISD community and gain increased exposure. The institute has also created their own curated Kickstarter and Etsy pages, showcasing RISD-born projects all in one place.
Offline, RISD debuted their Make Big Dreams Expo this past semester, awarding $3,000 in prizes to students with entrepreneurial ideas or existing projects, after they worked through workshops to refine their ideas and practice their presentation skills. The Career Center has also continued to host the RISD Entrepreneur Mindshare—conveniently coming up this weekend.
The Mindshare has given students the chance to come together, network and be inspired by stories of RISD alumni, business mentors and entrepreneurial thought leaders. Participants can learn more about funding opportunities, marketing strategies and “discover the mash-up of spirit, guts, risk-taking and business savvy that’s in [their] entrepreneurial DNA.”
This year’s Mindshare will feature Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb; Hannah Chung, co-founder of Design for America; and Allan Tear, managing partner and co-founder of Betaspring, among several others. For a full schedule of events, click here, and to register for the conference, click here.
The programs at RISD are only growing stronger. Yet, instead of just taking our word for it, why not check out the ever-growing list of successful RISD alumni below. The school has shaken up how we see an entrepreneur’s education and Victory says they’re looking to push the program even further. “We’re open to working collaboratively across disciplines,” Victory admits. “People should reach out if they’re interested in working with RISD and their students.”
Main Image Courtesy of Stoltze Design