All my friends are here: Four initial case studies on student design agencies

Peter Benz


Abstract

Student design agencies have not previously received much – if any – academic attention, despite their having become fairly common in the context of tertiary design / visual arts institutions since the late 1990s as a way of providing work–study experiences. This article, for the first time, outlines case studies of four international student design agencies in Germany, Malaysia and the USA, including their background, their legal set-up, their relations with their parent institutions, and their (business) activities and general operations, as well as their members’ motivations for participation. All case studies are based on interviews by email or Skype with respective agency heads conducted from November 2012 to January 2013. The information obtained from the interviews was further rounded by additional materials – where available – and turned into short comprehensive narratives that highlight the particular qualities of the respective cases.

The concluding comparison of these four narratives establishes that student design agencies are worthwhile knowledge transfer endeavours with strong indications of educational value, though more formal research would need to be done to confirm quantitative and qualitative effects. The four cases also allow for the deduction that the most important criterion for the success of a student design agency is its ability to create an intensive working experience with a strong focus on team interaction, and that the achievement of such experience is essentially based on on-campus space, staff involvement, competitive admission and non-business-related activities.

Keywords: student design agency, knowledge transfer, student entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, business innovation

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