WisBusiness: Head of Milwaukee art institute discusses connecting design and profit

By Maggie Schleicher

For WisBusiness.com

The head of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design says the school is shredding its “artsy fartsy” image and debunking the starving artist myth by proving the connection between design and profit.

When MIAD President Neil Hoffman began his presidency in 2007, he identified the need for partnerships within MIAD itself and with community industry leaders.

Since 2007, MIAD has developed a process that “involves all shareholders.”

”It’s not ten people in a room deciding what’s good for everyone else. It’s everyone, from custodians to trustees.” Hoffman told the Milwaukee Rotary Club on Tuesday.

Hoffman told the story of the chairman of his board conducting a meeting when a good suggestion was made by a MIAD staff member. When the chairman asked what the individual’s job was, he replied “cook.”

Working with industry leaders such as Kohl’s Corp., GE Healthcare, Trek and Master Lock has led to internships and jobs for MIAD students.

”Eighty-five to 90 percent of students become employed during their first year after graduation,” Hoffman said.

Besides creating a team-work heavy design-making process, Hoffman has implemented many curriculum changes.

Students are now learning more about writing, research, public speaking and other art disciplines.

”The changes are very popular with the parents” and the retention rate has increased, Hoffman said.

“This year saw the largest enrollment ever,” said Ryan Daniels, director of development, complimenting Hoffman’s changes.