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.”
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.