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Region 10 Designer Pool to level-up small business competitiveness

Thanks to a the vision of three dedicated professionals, Northern Mindanao (Region 10) has taken the first in a journey of a thousand steps to instill world-class design philosophy among its micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Last month, a partnership between a university based think-tank, a government agency and a local design atelier graduated the first batch of 19 junior designers in what would hopefully the first of many aimed at creating a pool of local designers who would assist small businessmen gain a competitive edge in the design of their products.

Dubbed the “Certificate Program for Designer Competency”, the three month course ran from April 7 to July 9, 2018 with six hour sessions held every Saturday at Capitol University.

The Art Gallery of Capitol University’s Museum of 3 Cultures hosted the group’s exhibit named bulawOne which has now moved to its next exhibit venue at a show window of Limketkai Luxe Hotel where it will run till the end of July, 2018.

“bulawOne” is the maiden exhibition of the pioneering class of the Design Proficiency Certificate Program, the brainchild of the Department of Trade and Industry Misamis Oriental Provincial Office (DTI Misor), Capitol University Business Incubation Center, and multi-awarded Mindanaoan designer Christopher Gomez.

Gomez is a multi-disciplinary creative and advocate of Sustainable Design. Among his many laurels: Finalist, 2011 National Philippine Art Awards; Grand Prize winner (water-based category) 2012 Metrobank Art & Design Excellence Awards, and Finalist, 2014 Look of Style Awards (British Council/Look Magazine).

He is a Product Development Mentor accredited by the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, and a Product Design Specialist of Design Center Philippines (DCP).

Photo gallery of the designers pool and their mentor.

First in PH

“The program is the first to ever be offered in the country, conceptualized to answer the need of a growing MSME base for design services.” reads the group’s page in social media. “This pioneering class will seed the Cagayan de Oro Design Council, forming the Philippines' first locally-rooted design talent pool, an initiative boldly taken in the city that opened the nation's first business-mentoring Negosyo Center.”

“It all started seeing the increasing number of MSME’s with the need for packaging, labeling, and even improving their product designs,” said Jesse Abear, Sr. Trade and Industry Development Specialist of the Department of Trade and Industry Misamis Oriental Provincial Office (DTI Misor).

“It was actually an idea that rose because of this and then also we have a designer in mind who can really help, and that is Chris Gomez of Chris Gomez Creative Design. It’s a good thing Capitol University has been very supportive and we also see it very important that it shall be lodged under an institution like a school,” she added.

While Capitol University commits itself to provide quality education that responds to the challenge of producing globally competitive graduates, it also sees the increasing need to expand its services to offer continuing education to professionals and entrepreneurs, reads the concept paper on the project prepared by Heidi Grace P. Mendoza, Director of the CU Business Development and Management Program and Manager of the CU Business Incubation and Support Center.

Mendoza said CU’s Business Development and Management Program realizes that besides the rising number of micro and small enterprises, there is also a need to add value to their products, which must compete for the attention of the market.

Beginnings of Design Industry

With the creation of the Business Incubation and Support Center, it was envisioned that learning opportunities can be supplied to both business enterprises and budding designers through a basic Certificate Program for Design Competency.

“This will not only provide support to MSMEs, but will also set the beginnings of the design industry within Cagayan de Oro City and North Mindanao. A partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry Misamis Oriental Provincial Office and Chris Gomez Creative Designs made this possible,” Mendoza noted.

Thinking out of the box with this stoneware pottery inspired mobile phone sound amplier.

“We noted the lack of designers in the region. We were thinking of doing a workshop and Ms Heidi Mendoza came in just after I arrived after completing my Master Class in Design Competency in Manila at Design Center Philippines,” Gomez said.

“Heidi was a business mentor under the MentorMe Program and suggested I do a modular course. So I did nine modules including Design Awareness and Appreciation, Material Development and Exploration, Product Development, Communication Design, Packaging and Labeling Design, Fashion Accessories and Compliments Design, Basic Furniture Design, and Visual Merchandising. A special internship was also arranged where student-designers were matched with micro and small enterprises from Misamis Oriental,” he added.

“We hope that the graduates of the program have evolved into designers with a definite creative point of view and who are positioned to transform their talent into the basis of a creative enterprise through training and exposure to effective design methods and techniques,” Mendoza said. “Even with the limited modules, our students have assembled a portfolio to promote their entry to a career in product design and today we are celebrating it through bulawOne, the product design exhibition.”

“To have dreamed of it at the very beginning and it’s a bigger pleasure to have found DTI as a partner. We hope through this first batch we will be able to create another venue, it’s a gift to have all the students and it’s a bigger gift to be able to host and hold this exhibition,” she added.

Further On​

“After this program, we’ll focus on training the students in finishing techniques, because design needs lots of exposure. So we don’t want to lose any momentum, we will focus on the business aspects of design to be conducted by DTI,” Gomez explained.

“We plan to visit the FAB Lab in Iligan at MSU-IIT so they can appreciate the facilities they can use there. And after that we will partner with DTI Region X to invite trainers from Design Center Philippines to further enhance their knowledge and techniques with trends and forecasts, finishing techniques and advanced furniture design.”

“At their present level they can be called aspiring or junior designers. After this they can proceed to being Senior designers after their respective apprenticeships. And we plan to tap local qualified designers for further trainings. As of now, the graduates still have ways to go.”

​Junior Designers​

The nineteen graduates are equally divided with eight males and eleven females. They also provided a varied cross-section of society including a broadcaster/restaurateur, graphic/surface pattern designer, government employee, retail marketing officer, freelance designer (architecture/construction), Visual Artist/Painter, museum curator, and marketing specialist.

The first batch of junior designers include the following: Donna G. Ocampo, Farrah Estabaya, Simonette F. Sagaral, Nathalie Mariano, Bernadette Batucan, Judy Ann Estrobo, Rubydel Fanugao,Beverly Candole, Sozie Alamban, Shu-jen Cruz, Vavan Poligrates, Dexter Valdez, Ryan Aristotle

Some of the Junior Designers Creations.

​ ​Carreon​,​​​ ​Cris Paraguya, Nik Azkuna, Kyle Mugot, Errol Balcos, Oscar A. Floirendo, and Dale B. Lagonera.
Former broadcaster Donna Ocampo shared her views of the course. “This course changed my perspective in design in a way that I realized everything was just self expression but with design I realized that there has to be more than self expression. It’s listening to the client, listing to consumers, listening to friends, balancing beauty and functionality. It entails a lot of discipline, and a lot of hard work.”

“There’s so much material to be manipulated and there’s no designers. If Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao can produce more beautiful products by having more designers, why not design them for our local weavers and local clients?”

On the other hands, Carreon, who already has a following for his religious paintings and is a campus celebrity in Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) for drawing the images of “Mary’s Windows” the stained glass panels of the XU Church of the Immaculate Conception when he was still a Development Communication student, took the course to expand his creative horizons beyond painting.

“I’m looking for more ways to express myself besides painting. With no formal training in visual arts, this course enabled me to differentiate designers from artists. In designing you have to listen to your clients, combine aesthetics with functionality. This course taught me I could do things other than painting. Designing expands my painting perspective.”

Natalie Mariano, who teaches yoga, works online and a content writer, and runs a graphic design business, revels in creative synergy from her fellow participants.

“There’s something that being around other creative people that feeds your creativity. It’s fun to flex your creative muscles and apply them in areas you’ve never applied them on before like product and furniture design. It opens up horizons and possibilities.”

Some guests who were viewing the exhibit during the time of my visit chimed in with kudos about the first fruits of the participants’ efforts.

“This is an awesome first effort for the entire Philippines,” said John Bermudo, graphic designer and illustrator at Chris Gomez Creative Design. “I appreciate the idea of such a design course. Follow up courses are important to develop the potential talent uncovered in the students.”

“They have the magic touch,” shared Maria Theresa Bacal,

“I’m impressed that our fellow Kagay-anons are capable of such designs,” said Bambi Bartolome-Fabian. “Many hidden talents were uncovered.”

In his brief talk during the exhibit’s launch at its first venue, Capitol University President Casimiro Juarez, Jr. stressed the need for local schools to think “out of the box.”

“While formal education is still in the minds of our citizenry, there is really a need for short term courses like this so that we will be able to help our communities. We should really support all these talented people. They are the chosen people of God.”

Judicious use of indigenous materials is a step in the right direction towards sustainable design.

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