The Jefferson “X FACTOR”

Global Industrial Design Collaboration

In November 2010, visitors to Philadelphia University could have seen students from schools separated by eight time zones collaborating on a global design challenge.


As part of the "Mbrela" project, students from PhilaU, Lincoln University in England and San Jose State University in California designed products around the theme of "play". The Mbrela Alliance was developed to teach students the methods and the meaning of design development in the global environment.

The results, developed through months of collaboration, were featured at two of the most prominent design fairs in both the United States and Europe

Design majors from each school contributed their own expertise. One team created an inflatable floor lamp that turns on when given a hug. Another team created a children's rug for a play room that expands into a tent when kids crawl inside.

"In tours and discussions with some of the best design firms on the West Coast, we learned how teams work in the real world, and how design can make a product succeed or fail,"" said Tod Corlett, associate professor of industrial design.

The students worked together primarily through virtual means, but also met in person twice to continue their work in "brick and mortar" fashion. PhilaU hosted the first face-to-face meeting in the fall and the students later traveled to California for a second meeting.

All of the products were built in various locations and then shipped to Milan, Italy, where they were assembled and displayed in the SaloneSatellite design fair in April - one of the most prestigious and largest exhibition venues in Europe.

The products were then shipped back to the United States for a second tour, this time to be displayed at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York - a venue that boasts over 500 exhibits and 145,000 square feet of display space.

"It doesn't get more real than this. The international collaborators and shows let the students into the design and business world right now, so they'll already know it from the inside when they start working as professionals," Corlett said.

Mbrela products are being catalogued under and are "for sale" to potential manufacturers.