Product Design

Beautiful solutions to difficult problems

KCAI is offering a new kind of product design program for the 21st century – informed by industry, appealing to a new generation of students and relevant for today’s design-conscious world.

Product Design students will imagine, invent and make objects that creatively respond to global challenges. The program will prepare future designers to be agents of change through the objects, systems and businesses they create. At the core of this program is the KCAI Product Design Incubator Hub, which is a launch pad and collaboration space that provides designers with resources to transform ideas into successful products and businesses. Students will learn entrepreneurial skills and business acumen to inform their product ventures. They will have access to courses in entrepreneurship taught by faculty from the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Full-Time Faculty

Chris Chapin

Professor and Chair

Chris Chapin has dedicated his career in design education to the positive influences artists and designers can have in providing innovative solutions to the global community. He joined KCAI in 2009. Since that time, he has led the Graphic Design program, taught cross-disciplinary Foundation studios, and developed a progressive Product Design program. As creator and founding leader of Product Design at KCAI, Chapin directs a program distinguished by its innovative collaborations with all disciplines on campus, industry professionals, entrepreneurship educators, and community leaders. The program is further distinguished by a strong entrepreneurial emphasis helping each graduate create a sustainable career in design innovation. This bold program prepares future designers to be agents for change through the objects, systems and businesses they create.

Previously, Chapin was Professor of Communication Arts and Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. He is a career photographer, designer and arts educator with degrees from the Institute of Design at IIT and Texas A&M University College of Architecture. He has held lead creative posts in the private sector and served as principal and creative director of a California-based design firm. Chapin has held distinguished leadership roles in arts education, has served on the board of City in Motion Dance Theater and Kansas City Academy, and currently serves as Chairman of the Board at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Kansas City.


Andy Heise

Assistant Director of the Regnier Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation & Assistant Professor at UMKC

Andy Heise is Assistant Director of the Regnier Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management. He earned his Bachelor of Music in Commercial Music and MBA from Millikin University. Heise’s work experience includes roles of Program Coordinator for the Center for Entrepreneurship at Millikin University Tabor School of Business and Associate Director of Programs and Operations for the Center for Entrepreneurship at Millikin University Tabor School of Business. Heise has significant experience in program development, mentoring students and program administration. He has presented on a variety of entrepreneurial topics at the Coleman Fellows Summit, United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) Annual Conference, the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC), the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), and the Society for Arts Entrepreneurship Education (SAEE).

Alison Wood

Assistant Professor

Alison Wood, an interdisciplinary designer, playing between the world of art and design, has rejoined KCAI where she previously taught in Foundation. She is also a consulting industrial designer for Rock Cottage Glassworks, one of two glassblowing studios in Kansas City. Her role encompasses public art design, product design, digital modeling, and digital fabrication.

From 2009, upon graduation from KCAI’s sculpture department, Alison has woven many educational opportunities into a broad range of study. First at Dale Chihuly’s Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, Washington. From there, she honed a glassblowing apprenticeship for nearly seven years with Dierk Van Keppel at Rock Cottage Glassworks. With influence from Kansas City’s metal engineering firm Zahner, Alison elected to complete a masters of Interior Architecture, Furniture, and Product Design from Kansas State University. Over the duration of her graduate studies, Alison attended DIS in Copenhagen, Denmark, presented her published research in Valencia, Spain, and designed for the contract furniture market company OFS. 

Outside of the office, she consults on product design, industrial design, and interior design. For fun, Alison spends her personal time designing furniture with an eye for sustainability and closed loop life cycles. 


Once you declare your major, Product Design students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses, download the complete Course Catalog.

Product Design Major Requirements

Double Major Art History & Product Design Requirements



DesignSpace is a studio for designers– a maker space for exploration and experimentation, and a space for innovative thinking, learning and collaborating. The DesignSpace series is a unique approach to structuring major studios. Each DesignSpace is informed by three defining elements; product design concepts; exploration and experimentation of materials and production methods; and use of emerging technologies. DesignSpaces (1–6) is facilitated by Product Design faculty and will engage interdisciplinary faculty and industry professionals as workshop mentors.



Student Work





Kansas City is home to internationally recognized, leading product design companies, such as Cerner, Garmin, Populous and Dimensional Innovations, who will provide a variety of local internship and mentorship opportunities for students.


The KCAI Product Design Incubator is an accelerator lab open to senior Product Design majors and alumni to provide support, mentorship and facilities needed to further develop design ideas and prepare them for real-world application.


A truly unique collaboration between KCAI and UMKC’s Regnier Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will provide students with access to entrepreneurial business classes that will provide industry insights and business acumen for students to advance their product ideas. Through this collaboration, students will take these classes at no additional charge.