RIT and Benetton Create Unique Partnership

Educational initiatives define international exchange between RIT’s School of Design and Fabrica

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RIT President Bill Destler (left) shows photographs of the new Vignelli Center for Design Studies to Luciano Benetton, chairman of the Benetton Group. Destler met with Benetton in Treviso, Italy, to discuss a new educational partnership.

The internationally renowned social communication research center for Benetton Group—known as Fabrica—is now an educational partner with the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology. This new link expands the scope of the university’s award-winning design programs in RIT’s School of Design, and adds a significant overseas partner to the school’s current offerings. Fabrica is headquartered in Treviso, Italy.

Luciano Benetton, chairman of the Benetton Group, which includes the iconic Benetton clothing company, is a major supporter of the exchange program. The partnership is the result of Benetton’s interest in the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, a new international center for design scholarship, research and recognition which is now located at RIT.

Fabrica will offer RIT design students opportunities for internships where they will work on wide-ranging creative projects across many disciplines. Created in 1994, Fabrica draws in artists and designers from all over the world to study at this applied creativity laboratory where they develop innovative projects in such areas as design, music, publishing, photography and the Internet.

Benetton has been a longtime business associate and friend of Massimo and Lella Vignelli. The husband and wife team, recognized as two of the most influential designers in the world, created a corporate identity program for Italy’s largest clothing maker in the mid 90s. The Vignellis are also longtime friends of RIT’s School of Design, and have an endowed professorship named in their honor, in addition to the new center in their name. The center will be the home to their archives and will serve as a beacon of design excellence for students, faculty, professional designers, researchers and scholars from around the world.

“Thanks to our friends Lella and Massimo Vignelli, RIT has an exciting, new relationship with Benetton,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “We are grateful to Luciano Benetton for his support and advocacy as RIT and the Vignellis move to expand the university’s global presence in the area of design studies.”

As a first step, Fabrica has invited RIT to collaborate on a project dealing with the future of the retail environment as the research center focuses on the evolution of retail space. Synergies between Fabrica’s interaction research area and an interdisciplinary team of RIT faculty members from the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, and B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences will be established to give students the opportunity to examine particular issues surrounding the future of retail.

“Our relationship with Benetton advances the goals of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among industry, faculty and students,” says R. Roger Remington, RIT’s Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design. “The educational and research prospects provide content and expertise for our faculty and students. RIT’s great potential is in its interdisciplinary work and I’m proud that the Vignelli Center is serving as a bridge to these opportunities.”

The exchange program between RIT’s School of Design and Fabrica will complement existing international exchange programs with the Dessau Department of Design; Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau, Germany, and in Copenhagen, Denmark; as well as one planned with the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art, London.