The city of High Point’s rich heritage in the furniture industry is a defining factor for HPU’s interior design and home furnishings programs. With numerous furniture companies headquartered here and a twice-yearly international furniture market that attracts 100,000 industry leaders, the opportunities for internships and careers are often a stone’s throw from campus.
Faculty in the School of Art and Design have dedicated their time and expertise to expanding current programs and establishing new majors that keep graduates ahead of the curve. Last fall, the school launched a new major in visual merchandising and design geared toward the retail sector. HPU will also transform its current home furnishings major into a furnishings/product development and design major, allowing students to focus on the creation of products that fill our homes and lives.
Showrooms to Storefronts
Visual merchandising is a vast field with multiple avenues for graduates, says Dr. Jane Nichols, chair of home furnishings and interior design.
“If you’ve ever walked by a store window that caught your eye and said, ‘I’ve got to have that,’ then it was put together by a great visual merchandiser,” says Nichols. “Visual merchandisers are employed by many different companies, from furniture manufacturers with design centers and showrooms, to all manner of retail stores from Louis Vuitton to Disney to Hallmark.”
The new major is a mix of business and design courses that offer the core knowledge needed in the field. A paid internship program that faculty are establishing will give them the out-of-the-classroom experience and professional connections they need to launch a career.
“Our faculty and our connections to the industry have allowed us to create partnerships with furniture design centers and manufacturers across the country,” says Nichols. “Those businesses will host our students during the summer, giving them practical work experience. Beyond that, they’ll have study abroad opportunities where they can delve further into furnishings and textiles in London, Paris or Italy. It’s a total experience that makes our students well-rounded professionals and top candidates for fulfilling careers.”
Concepts to Products
In addition to visual merchandising, the home furnishings major is transforming into a furnishings/product development and design (FPD) major that teaches students to create pieces for any product line, from casegoods all the way to accessories.
The new major commences this fall, but a technology lab that distinguishes the program from others in the country is already being used by students. The lab houses a 3-D printer, laser cutter and CNC router purchased through a grant from the Knabusch-Shoemaker Fund. These technologies give students the ability to turn their vision into reality and transfer concepts on paper into tangible products.
“Over the last two years, our faculty have spent countless hours re-imagining the educational experience of our students,” says Dr. John Turpin, dean of the school. “New courses, programs, technologies and experiences are being carefully integrated to prepare our graduates for an ever-changing, complex and competitive market.”