Art Institutes Industrial Design programs

My son is looking into ID programs and will be starting college in Fall 2005. What is the industry’s opinion of the designers who attend the Art Institutes’ design programs? Are they regarded as good designers and are the designers as sought after as say Univ. of Cincinnati or Academy of Art College?

College Mom

No where near as recogognized as U of C, there industry ties are extemely strong. They are one of the best in that realm.

Art Institute programs vary quite a bit, school to school, depending on instructors of course, but overall it’s a much weaker program. It just doesn’t have the rigor.

Not even close! The IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America) has a list of accredited or currently being evaluated schools. Its listed here:

If you notice both U of Cincinnati and The Academy are on the IDSA list but not any of the Art Institutes.

As a whole the Ai brand of schools have a mixed reputation. Each school operates on its own. You realy need to go see the department at the Ai you are considering. This would be true for ANY school that you investigate.

Current faculty is what makes a program. Go in and meet the department chair and the instructors. Does the school have part time instructors who are working in the field?

From there, does the school have sponsored projects with professional firms or manufacturers? Local Designer involvement? Professional presentations by local designers?

Take advice in stride, most people have not seen many departments in action. They may have seen one or two. Word of mouth is sometimes taken as actual knowledge about a department.

Being in SFL, I have had an chance to see what is happening at the local Ai. There are very good things happening there. Lots of local professional involvment along with sponsored classes. Diverse faculty with passion. Sure, it is not Parsons, Pratt, RIT, UC, or any other school with a reputation. But what school always lives up to an old reputation? THe Ai of Ft. Lauderdale is certainly creating a new positive reputation. I would not advise someone to go to the school I graduated from ( not the Ai ), the faculty has completely changed and it is not as strong now. Even though it was world class when I attended it.

Best advice is to go see the school you are considering. Not matter what school. Talk to students and teachers.


Well, for one, there is one aI school on the IDSA list, and I know The new program in Orange county will be on their soon. I am a current student at AIOC, and I transferd from another school (on that list) and so far I think it is better. I would agree that is no where near the top schools, but also that you need to look at each school. I know the OC students seem to really have a passion, and there are a lot of local socal kids that just have a new different way of thinking then say a midwest kid. Bottom line, i would look at location, and check out the facilities, and ask the program directors what direction he is taking the program. Some stay away from transertaion, other love it. I know AI Orange county it looking more into product design, and trying to find a medium between artistic and function values, which some school tend to really go one way with. Also, some AI schools offer Associates, not Orange county, but i think seattle. Just dont check off a school until you go check it out for your self. I know a lot of good art center students, who dont have jobs. and AI students who do, so remember. a good designer will work hard anywhere/

As a student of the art institute of ft. lauderdale I can say i’ve seen both the good and the bad that the program has to offer. There seams to be this misconception that if its not a well known university such as pratt or rit that the education is less rigorous. As every designer knows, your projects and success depend on how much effort and time you spend on your projects and learning the skills. I chose the art institute because of the location. I was living in the area and there are no other industrial design schools for hundreds of miles. What makes the AIFL a great place to learn are the teachers. The program has teachers that are working in the field which is perfect for them to teach the students what is needed to play an integral part of a design team. A few months back we had a sponsered trip to design in taiwan. 4 students and an instructor teamed up with greenmaster excercise OEM to design a rowing machine in taiwan. How many schools can say that they’ve been able to do that for their students. The ai is all about keeping it real. Not to say that there are no blue sky projects, but the teachers mainly push real world problems, which in my opinion keeps us well grounded for our future endevours. So before talking smack, check the program out and then make your comments.

There are some very good points above, what really sticks with me is what guest says “I know a lot of good art center grads who don’t have jobs, and Ai grads who do.” I’m a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, my expereince there was awsome, and I was a full time Industrial Designer the week before graduation. I believe school is what the student makes of it, the instructors at AIFL offered an eductaion that gave me the core skills I needed to be where I am now. I have never been to any other school to see what they have going on, so I can’t knock art center, or academy of art. I can say these schools are great if your son wants to be an automotive designer or a model maker, and if this is the case AIFL isn’t the right school. But for real world experience, AIFL was perfect, they have sponsored projects every quarter, and they teach their students about manufacturing (Industrial Design is all about mass production), come on, they helped coordinaite a student trip to Taiwan (being a participant of that trip, I can say it was “unforgetable”).

My advice is not only to check out the schools but, also to check out the student work coming out of each school, I would recommend and Also, if you would like to see my student work (AIFL) it’s at Keep in mind I arrived at AIFL a fine artist who loved cars and wanted to be a part of that industry, that was it. The teachers at AIFL taught me everyhting you’ll see, and taught me what it is to design.

A side note about Ai’s reputation: Just watch the next few years, you’ll be seeing a lot of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Good luck and congrats to your son for his choice of majors.

screwed up my link there


no period, sorry!

Nice stuff C-Boy. Looks like you’ll have a good time down at Reflex, they look like a great group to go to right out of school.

accurately observed, school is what you put in. In the end what matters most is being in a place you feel comfortable learning in. The competiveness boot camp feel (and big money) of Art Center works for some and not for others, I thought about transfering there back when I was a sophmore in school, flew out, talked with Ron Hill, head of the trans department at the time, and decided it just didn’t feel like a fit for me, and it all worked out in the end anyhow.

I am currently a Student at the Art Insitute of Fort Lauderdale with just a little less than a year till graduation. I believe what you put in school determines how much you will get out of it. For me the Art Insitute of Fort Lauderdale have given me the direction I needed. I have a part time job in the field while still attending school, who knows where I would have ended up attending a different school but I have put the effort into my classes and that has been reconized. We have terrific teachers that are there whenever you need them. They have become great role models for me. They are actually working in the field, or if not have worked in the field before, and they are always filled with great advice. The only bad side to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale is that they do not single out anyone. Which is good in on one hand but on the other it allow students to come in who aren’t that determine. If your son is very interest in designing and has the passion then this school is a great choice.

In direct response to the College Mom’s question: I have attended every type of school possible, because I didn’t have parents involved enough to help me do the necessary research. I skipped around from this place to that trying desperately to find my niche. Five years later I am finally graduating with my BS from AIFL. There is nothing wrong with the private school, public university, trade school, or community college systems. It is just that they all cater to a different style of learner. PLEASE, for your son’s sake, help him evaluate the environment he learns best in. If he loves hands on learning and you think he is really motivated about design in general (i.e. enjoys drawing and tinkering with new gadgets) then the degree choice is right. AIFL is a very loose environment, the challenges are valid and strength building, but as everyone has already said your son must be self-motivated. The teachers are great and they will do their best to encourage and guide you, but the structure of class leaves the end result to your son. If he attends AIFL, he is guaranteed to develop a relationship with his instructors, many of which he will have repeatedly throughout his curriculumn. He will also garner a relationship with local professionals through many sponsored projects (I have had 4 in my 2-yrs @AIFL). He will also be provided with extra-curricular opportunities to rub elbows with potential future employers. Simply, he should definitely graduate with a few impressive references. Don’t let the fact that AIFL hasn’t been on some “top-ten of repute” list detract you from checking us out. We have a lot to offer, and as anyone who has seen our students at the regional student-IDSA conferences would tell you we are competing (and competing extremely well).

In response to the question about the Art Institutes Industrial Design programs, I honestly have to say that it depends on three things: 1)the faculty 2)how much extra effort you put in it 3)how bad you wanna make it. Ans Ireally think it’s mostly 2 and 3.
I’m a graduate from the AI of Ft-Lauderdale, and I don’t regret my choice. As I was going to school there, I saw te faculty getting better and better, and so did the quality of student work. There would always be professionals coming in to grade or comment on our presentations, give their input and so on.
In Industrial design, unlike other professions, your portfolio is what gets you the job (and also personality), but rarely your grades and the name of your school, although that can help sometimes. Not trying to brag, but I’ve been told quite a few times at IDSA portfolio reviews that my portfolio was better then some portfolios right out of UC or ACC. Now I’m enjoying a great ID job in Boston.
AIFL is probably even better now then when i was attending. I can’t speak for all AI schools. Like I mentionned, no matter what school your son chooses to go to, it’s the effort that your son puts in his sketching, renderings,modeling, cpu skills and communication that counts. The porfolio gets you the job, not the name of the school.

Good luck in your choice, your son couldn’t have chosen a better major.

I just wanna chime in as another recent graduate of AIFL. And these points made before mine are very valid and feasible reasons for considering AIFL. The program progressed and is growing stronger, in the 3.5 years I was there, the faculty, projects, facilities, and recognition have increased dramatically in a positive direction.

Although it doesn’t yet have the connotation that usually goes with UoC, or RIT, its getting there. The program has been evolving much as design does in the real world. I graduated with a healthy base of knowledge among the vast disciplines of id, including human factors, modelmaking, materials and processes, business aspects of id, working with clients, presentation techniques, computer modeling etc.

With the growing design community here in florida, AIFL is a viable consideration for ID. Keep in mind that for every successful graduate there are many that don’t cut it. You really do get more out of it when you observe, apply, and continue learning, not only from teachers or the schools curriculum, but really take it upon yourself to learn more, ask questions, be creative, and stay informed.

And most important a good base of skills, portfolio, knowledge, and job oppurtunities are there at AIFL. Sometimes you just gotta go out and search a bit.

I am grateful for everyone’s replies. They have been informative and positive. They have given me insight into things I had not considered. My first thought was to check with the industry, but I know it has to be a school he is interested in. If he isn’t happy there, he will not do well even if the program has a fantastic reputation. I am still open for info and I have directed my son to this website. Hopefully, he will ask questions.

Thank you from a grateful,
College Mom

I’m a recent graduate of AiFL and I don’t regret a minute of my time there. While in school I had the pleasure of having two great internships and learned alot. Also, I have a great design job. After I was hired, I asked why I was hired and they said because I had “REAL” projects inspired but creative thinking and humor not just blue sky projects like other designers. It’s the designer’s talent with a good portfolio, personilty, drive, passion, good sketching skills and a love for design that will get them ahead in the world of design, not where you went to school.