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Human factors/engineering psychology

Postby Pepper » April 4th, 2016, 7:12 am


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My daughter wants to be a toy designer. She will be a freshman in the fall. She has been accepted to several ID programs including RIT and Syracuse. She is leaning towards RIT if she goes that route. She has also been accepted to Tufts University which ticks quite a few boxes on her list including social fit, proximity to home and a liberal arts education. They do not have an industrial design program but do have human factors engineering/ engineering psychology. It is very difficult for me to understand this program. She plans to call the department today and ask some pointed questions but I thought I would start asking here first. This program does not appear to art based. Could this be a path towards ID? Are we fooling ourselves that we could make this work? Tufts is fully partnered with the School of fine arts at the museum of fine arts and I believe that gave several design courses. Any insight would be appreciated.

Re: Human factors/engineering psychology

Postby yo » April 4th, 2016, 8:24 am

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I think it would be very very difficult to get a position as a toy designer, or really anything in ID by going to Tufts. I recommend going to RIT or Syracuse and make sure she tries to get an internship with Fisher Price which is in Buffalo. I think they recruit from both schools.

Re: Human factors/engineering psychology

Postby slippyfish » April 4th, 2016, 2:59 pm

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SU alum here.
Tufts is very strong for engineering, plus is in a fun area (Somerville, Davis Sq, close to Boston itself), but agree with yo there's nothing going on in ID.
I've been seeing better portfolios from SU than RIT lately - could just be a small sample size, but the program is doing good things lately. SU has the benefit of being part of the VPA college and art-wise its hard to think of how a school could offer more in the way of facilities and faculty. I think RIT will provide a more nuts-and-bolts ID program but SU will be more well-rounded artistically.
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A HF/engineering psychology program will not provide the skills, practice and critical review that an ID program will provide, and that your daughter will need to embark on a career as a toy designer. Though Tufts hits some of the "check boxes", none of those boxes are the ones needed for a career as a designer. Tufts' relationship with the SMFA won't help either. The Museum School is a great art school, but they do not teach product design. For her to be an attractive candidate, and competitive with other candidates, she absolutely needs to go to an ID program.

And although she is young and perhaps idealistic ( a good quality for all people to have in some capacity, regardless), she should consider that she'd do best to build her skill set as a designer, not just specifically a toy designer. Many designers are able to, and are comfortable with solving any problem in any domain. That's what makes them designers, not one-trick ponies, and that's what makes design fun: you can work on anything.

Good luck, and you should encourage her to get on the discussion boards here - they are a great resource.
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Re: Human factors/engineering psychology

Postby yo » April 4th, 2016, 3:52 pm

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If location is the issue, Mass Art and Wentworth are right in Boston.

Re: Human factors/engineering psychology

Postby Pepper » April 4th, 2016, 4:43 pm


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Thank you all for your input. Just to be clear, she does want to be a toy designer but is open to all areas of design. She does not want to go to a stand alone art school because she wants exposure to other types of classes. Wentworth is also one of her admitted schools. If she chooses Tufts it looks like she may need to get a master's degree in order to pursue ID. I guess she will have to decide where her priorities lie.

Re: Human factors/engineering psychology

Postby yo » April 4th, 2016, 5:46 pm

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I wouldn't rule out art school. I went to RISD 20 years ago and am now am Chief Design Officer of a consumer electronics company with three brands. Design at it's core is not an academic activity. the more rigid and academic the school, the harder it can be to transition to the world of being a professional creative. Are job is to find and develop innovative ideas, that kind of thing is hard to teach in a classroom. Art school happens to be a great petrie dish for learning how to innovate. The entire place is like a creative laboratory. Many of the good design programs that happen to be at universities tend to be run as completely separate schools within either their school's of art or architecture. UC's, which is one of the best university programs, is in their DAAP (Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning). RISD, CCS, and Art Center have probably the most consistently rated design programs and all three are art schools.

Just a little context for you.


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I do not recommend an art school or engineering-oriented school, she will need an environment that fosters the entire product design process, with good facilities for research, concept development and prototyping.

It's great that she already knows she wants to be a toy designer, and she should hold on to this striving, but I recommend doing an ID program over a Toy Design program because she will take in knowledge, skills (for example electronics, interaction design) and creative solutions from other disciplines which will make her a more interesting designer with in my view a more interesting portfolio.
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