Accepted to Mdes program

Just got my acceptance letter to IIT Mdes.

As I do not have a background in design, I was wandering if anyone could recommend some good books on ID. I’m looking for something that is pretty current, with real life examples, and that will hopefully be an interesting read.

Also, I am interested in joing some ID organizations. Any recommendations besides IDSA?

Lastly, any recommendations on ID magazines?

Thanks in Advance,


What background do you have?

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Those answers should go along way in the getting answers to your questions.

My background is in psych and law. I’m pretty sure I want to pursure product design, but I am hoping a lot of other opportunities will become apparent to me once I start my classes. So, I guess for now, I am looking for general Industrial Design materials. But if I had to pick, than product design. Still to vague?

Anyone out there have any suggestions on how to best utilize a psychology background in an Industrial Design career?



I was at ID-IIT for three years. You’ll find the answer to this question as you go through the program there. It is heavily based on understading those for whom you will design. Your ed background gives you skills and tools to do that in an insightful way.

this is for spring 2007? you got the admit letter for applying to the sept 15th deadline? nice. the process still works.

Yes, Spring 07. And actually, the deadline for U.S. students was Oct. 15.

Just wandering what you mean by the “system”? Was it broken?

Also, just to clarify, just wandering people’s opinions are on what the best type of ID someone could do with a psych background. See, I am not an artist, so was hesitant to apply to a design program.

I meant “process”.

that was the process I installed there in order to have the admissions run on time. that it was running efficiently, not keepingyou waiting for your results is a sign to me of continuing high quality of the system.

I’m from IIT MDes. I hope you’re not going there thinking it’s going to make you a product designer. Unless you go there with a prior background in industrial design - a degree or equivalent work experience - you’re not going to be making things. You’ll be doing the thinking, researching and concepting up to the design point, including sketching and building prototypes. If this is what you want to do – and it may be if you seek to unify social science with product design – then stop reading. You’re all set. If not, continue…

This is true for any design discipline covered at IIT from product to service to systems to interaction design. You will do some early product design in foundation year, but two courses in one year can’t compare to a BFA in product design and/or full time work experience as a designer. Students with work experience in design fare far better than those that don’t when pursuing jobs in product design after graduation. Without a ugrad degree or work experience, your likely career path out of IIT will be user research, ethnography, design planning, experience or system design, etc. This can be very interesting and lucrative, but you won’t be the person worrying about detail and form, you’ll be doing the conceptual work that precedes that step and then is handed off to the accomplished ID’er for realization.

IIT’s MDes teaches you how to plan to design things, not make them. The finished beautiful products that may come out of there – with rare exception – come from those who entered with existing design skills. Those who enter with no design background (especially those who have none and also must do the foundation year, like you) do not emerge as accomplished designers in the sense of realizing a product to any detail. IIT’s focus is design and innovation planning which teaches collaborative problem solving, user research, sketching/prototyping ideas and learning how to be an effective presenter and make logical arguments for your ideas. If your goal is to realize final product with a love of detail and form, IIT is a terrible place to waste your money. Take those three years and get an undergrad degree in XXXX design at a school that considers design thinking, something more and more ugrad programs are acknowledging as critical and starting to embrace in the form of workshops, lectures and special classes.

absolutely. either you taught me all I know or you were taught by the same teachers at ID.

Hey there,

Just got accepted to the MDes/MBA program at ID as well, starting in Jan '07 Will be on the product design track with Chris.

A couple of the books that I’ve started reading are :

Don’t make me Thinks
Oberving the User Experience
The design of everyday things
The ten faces of innovation

Let’s make sure we keep in touch. I’ll be moving from Boston sometime in late dec, early Jan.



Great summary of IIT and exactly the reason I applied for the program.

What are your thoughts on trying to condense a year of foundation classes into a semester? As you mentioned, I’m not trying to be a designer but just understand the design process and language.

Also, any helpful advice for others like me and famousbate before we start school this Jan? Any particulars or idiosyncracies about how ID operates that we should know about to get the most bang for our buck out there?



You are correct. I am not interested in the finished product as much as the process leading up to it. As a psych major, I am interested in user-centered design, observing poeple interact with a product and than improving it from there or coming up with somehting completley different.

I thought IIt was a good match foe me b/c of its focus on design as part of a business model.

I do not consider myself an artist as much as a creative thinker who is interested in who people interact with a product anf how in turn those products make peoples lives easier.


Congrats. Did you have to apply to both the Institute of Design and the B-School seperatley?

Also, I did not know that you could do foundation in one semester. Are those classes with undergrads?

Do you know how many students are in the program?

Sorry for all of the questions, but you are one of the first people I have met who is also attending IIT.

I was taught by the same teachers. :wink:

I didn’t do foundation. My ugrad degree was in a hard science, but I pursued post-bacc education in graphic design roughly equivalent to two years towards a BFA and had five years of work experience in user research, information architecture, interaction design, visual realization (down to final form, agonizing over one pixel, one degree of transparency, kerning letters within an inch of their lives, etc.).

I can tell you that these classes are not combined with ugrad. In fact, ID is isolated downtown from the rest of IIT’s south side campus. You’ll have little if any sense that you are connected to a wider university. Typically there are about 15 students in foundation, and they take all their classes together and sit as a group at assigned workspaces outside of class. Therefore, foundies do not mix with any of the other students unless they choose to socially. It’s a very intense program - far more classroom hours than the 1st and 2nd year or MDM, and a lot more work. The foundation student body can become very cliquey because of the sheer amount of time they spend with each other. When they rise into 1st year and merge with the new non-foundie 1st years, it can be a few weeks before the cliques break apart. Some of the foundie relationships stay super-tight through graduation. I’m surprised they are allowing anyone to enter foundation mid-year, because it is a full year sequential program not offered off-semester.

My impression is that foundation gives a nice exposure to what designers make and the processes and tools they use, mostly with emphasis on industrial/product and communication design. But foundation also focuses heavily on photography (a key skill for user research), design planning and history of design thinking. it is very good for setting up a career in research and ideation for any design field because you will be conversant and knowledgable. So for you, it will suit your needs to at T.

It is far more like an MBA program than an MFA program. Though there are touches of fine art - remants of photography coursework (Grimes’ class) and still a healthy tradition in product design - it feels little like an art school. A few students can be a bit original or eccentric but mostly people are mainstream and VERY VERY focused on jobs and careers, some in a very in a competitive, MBA-like manner. There are many students there that can barely use InDesign, haven’t a clue how to do a thing in Photoshop and Illustration and and prefer PowerPoint, if that gives you a clue.

Therefore, like an MBA program, what you get out of it is the networking. Make friends, go to parties, participate in the SocialID stuff. The alumni network is strong.

The emphasis there is on teams. Teamwork everywhere. All the classes focus most of their time on teams presenting their work to each other every week. Not sure about foundation, but in the regualr program, it’s mostly learn-by-doing, trying, sharing and arguing in collaboration with others. Some classes let you choose your own teams. Figure out quickly who the best people are in terms of intelligence, work ethic and presentation skills and join up with them whenever possible. In many cases they have already cliqued off together. The quailty of your experience in a class can be very dependent on the quality of your teammates.

In terms of finding a job - because this is the one thing that everyone at ID is a complete freak about - when you go to put together your resume and portfolio, be sure to have a point of view about what you want to do. Too many students there try to be all things to all employers in desparation, or are the opposite: too vague in their objectives. Most employers come looking for specifics, whether it’s an interest in interaction design, an interest in product design, or an interest in design planning and user research. Working now for a major company that hires a lot out of ID, I can tell you the resumes are scanned for specific interests, those that are too broad or too vague are trashed (“what does this person really want to do?”).

When the TPTB at ID send out job postings to the internal mailing list, save the ones that sound most interesting to you. Tailor your coursework, your resume and your portfolio to those types of jobs. if you do, you will stand out among the sea of students looking to “leverage experience in user research, prototyping, service and systems design in a multidiciplinary innovation-focused environment, delivering exceptional, cross-cultural brand experiences that bring value to users and drive profit for companies.” :laughing:

Also know that the faculty and student interaction can be very weak. I never had a course with Chris because I was not product design, but I heard he’s excellent - nary a bad word ever said about him, and he’s one of the few who take time to get to know his students. Vijay Kumar is a wise and caring man. In any case, all of the full-time faculty and PhD’s and visiting scholars are in offices behind locked areas ont eh 2nd and 4th floor so you cannot just drop in. This was a MAJOR complaint among students when I was there. They do not have any reason to wander through the student areas other than to teach. The community is very disjointed this way. You’ll rarely have memorable chance encounters except in the elevators… those all-important impromptu conversations in the halls or dropping in during office hours because something came to mind… doesn’t happen.

At least half the courses are taught by adjuncts who have real full-time jobs, so you’ll never run into them at all, though I found many of the adjuncts to be the most accessible, even if by email or through appointment just before or after class.

As I just mentioned in my essay post, they’re not and you can’t do it in one semester unless this person has a customized arrangement.

about 15 in foundation
maybe 30 in 1st year, 30 in 2nd?
MDM is a rapidly growing program, they are pushing and promoting it very very hard; there were like 5 MDMs two years ago, now there are like 30+. Many are part-time, full time working.

ID can be a very insular community and a bit snobby. (Yes, I’ve had my issues with the school but the degree is worth it if you’re passionate about the niche curriculum and field; it’s the only school around dedicated solely to this practice.)

In my 6 semesters there only one student was ever allowed to consider one semester of foundation rather than one year, but in that case the student had an undergraduate design degree in graphics and wanted to shift to product. hence the brush up classes.

foundation is two semesters and there is no way to overcome that if you enter without a professional portfolio or one from undergrad that is approved by the faculty review committee

ID has no undergrad design students, the last batch graduated in 1998, since then it has been a purely graduate program.

mieze is answering the rest of the questions far better than i, since I sat inside one of those closed 4th floor office spaces and had no trouble accessing the faculty.

mieze when did you graduate from the program?

I did - i got lucky and b-school gave me a 40% fellowship. Not sure how tuition, classes work since it’s not very clear on the website.

I had the option of skipping foundation all together (even though I don’t have a design background) but I think it would be very useful but I don’t want to spend more than a semester. With dual degree MDes/MBA being 2 1/2 years - that would work out perfectly.

Not sure how many are in the program - when I visited the classes at the open house, seemed like between 60-80.

I am very excited about this program - found an actual program that matches my passion - wow!.

I’m going to go to the open house in NY next monday - i want to meet some of the alums and get some advice. If you can, you should consider doing the same.