Now in its sixth year working with Pratt's design programs, the Barnes & Noble (B&N) Back to Campus collection is a unique opportunity for students to design products—journals, notebooks, mugs, and more—that are sold in B&N stores nationwide and online. The collection repeatedly sells out each year, and this current crop of products has been especially successful. This successful program has expanded to include more than a dozen items produced each year.
“It’s a great project for the students because they get to work with a real client,” says Graduate Communications Design Adjunct Professor Tom Dolle, the faculty advisor for this project. “A lot of the program is to get them to understand who the audience really is, who we are doing this for, and what would appeal to that audience. This is what good design is all about.”
Over the summer, the graduate communications design students work with Dolle directly, “we do a lot of back and forth critique,” he says. The students then receive feedback from two art directors from B&N who discuss how the designs could be more salable.
These designs are then presented to the B&N buyers who ultimately select the products for manufacture. According to Dolle, the buyers are “looking for things that have a human touch to them.” He adds, “B&N is very pleased with how this program has worked for them. Some products are evergreen where they reprint them and sell them over and over.”
Products selected to be produced and sold in the 2013 Back to Campus collection were designed by graduate students and recent alumni Yu Ping Chuang, Marina Brant, Mona Bagla, Jen Sheppard, Sarah Alfarhan, Erin Wilson, and Katherine Robinson.
Text: Kate Ünver & Luke Degnan