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FIT Now Offering Pet Product Design Courses

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A funny thing happened to Janet Brav and Deborah David at a pet industry trade show last December. They ran into some folks from a well-known pet products manufacturer and got to talking. Turns out, the pet product manufacturer was having growing pains and needed help. They were concerned, however, about how to find good people - those who not only understood the pet business, but could also hit the ground running.

"They told us that just the night before they'd actually said, 'What, is FIT going to just send us a few interns?''' said Brav, a professor in the advertising and communications department at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY. "And then, the next day they met us.''

"Us'' is colleagues Brav and David, who together are the brain-trust behind the Institute's latest continuing education offering: A series of pet product design courses - the first pet program of its kind in higher education - that was launched this past spring.

"One of the reasons we started this program was to be able to offer (the pet industry) the kind of employment services they need,'' said David, an assistant professor at the school. "We knew that if we could give students the right kinds of "pet" skills so the industry wouldn't have to hire novices, it would be good for everybody.''

Responding to a market niche

Brav and David also recognized that while employers needed help finding qualified employees, there was also a real market for what FIT had to give.

"There's been phenomenal growth in the pet product industry in general,'' Brav said. "In watching it, we recognized that style and aesthetics were starting to drive product design, from leashes and totes, to bowls, pillows, shampoos, and pet fragrances.''

After some research, they realized that FIT was well-positioned as a "one-stop shop'' in supplying everything the market needed - from fashion and accessories, to home products, cosmetics, toys, and even marketing and licensing.

Courses start with the basics

With this long-range goal in mind, Brav and David spent a lot of time laying the foundation for the program. They then built on that foundation the courses (on designing pet apparel, accessories, and lifestyle products) introduced earlier in the year.

This summer, for example, FIT offered one class plus a three-day intensive for people who don't live in the city but are willing to travel for a more concentrated learning experience.

And in the fall, they plan to add two new sessions to the program - one on branding (that Brav and David will teach) and another on how to sketch basic dog and cat figures, and accessories and lifestyle items like beds, play stations and feeding dishes.

Evolving from certificate to accreditation

Students who enroll in these courses, which are taught by long-time veterans of industry who "have shown a great interest in them,'' according to David, can ultimately earn a certificate in pet product design.

"These courses are perfect for people looking to make a career change or have a sideline business in dog fashion and accessories,'' she said, adding that while continuing education is a great incubator for new ideas, the ultimate goal is for the program to evolve into being fully accredited. It's a process that can take as long as two years.

Regardless, response to the program has been phenomenal. "All of the courses have been full,'' said David, "and the students were really happy with them.''

Not surprising, given the school's consummate reputation for fashion and then some. "You say FIT and people are wowed,'' Brav said. "Even a certificate is an incredible credential with great cache simply by virtue of where it's come from.''

For more information about the program, visit www.fitnyc.edu.

Credit: Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS, and John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD
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