James Howard, assistant professor and design project leader at County College of Morris (CCM), likes to quote pioneering architect Samuel Mockbee, when he tells his students, “Proceed and be bold.”
“It’s a mantra I’ve adopted,” he says. As an industrial designer, he has been guided by that motto through the course of his career.
“The field of industrial design is not properly understood,” Howard says. Its primary concerns are safety, appearance, price and performance.
“We find the pulse of what consumers need, then design it. We’re problem solvers.” That spirit of innovation is what drew Howard to the field.
“As a kid I would take apart the old-fashioned Bell telephone and look at its components. It was a natural curiosity that prompted me along this path,” he says.
His first brush with success was with a custom-designed biofeedback system he created to help children with cerebral palsy develop head control. A thesis project for his MFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago, it won an international design award and landed him his first job.
After several years working in a corporate environment, Howard started his own industrial design company, Howard Design Associates. He handled a variety of assignments involving packaging, medical products, toys and footwear. His clients included such heavy hitters as Johnson & Johnson, Kraft General Foods, Braun Medical and Coca Cola.
During those years, he patented a number of industrial designs from the first pill box to keep track of patient pill use to a cardiovascular inflation device that aids in removing atheroma from clogged arteries.
For the past 19 years, he has taught design at CCM, sharing what he has learned with his students. He oversees the design program, which offers concentrations in fashion, architecture, interior design and industrial design.
“I’m all about trying to enlighten minds and empower them with the confidence that they can achieve great heights in the field of design,” he says. His students were in the first graduating industrial design classes at Kean College, NJIT and Montclair State, programs that started after the one he developed at CCM. Many of his graduates have gone into industry; two returned to CCM to teach. He encourages his students to begin innovating from the first day they enter his classroom.
“I tell my students that the journey to a successful career in design starts now.”