Carnegie Mellon Switching Majors

I’m currently a sophomore Finance major at CMU, but recently discovered that I want to concentrate on designing and bringing a product to market. So I currently have a few options that I am considering:

  1. I could take design courses to build up my portfolio and simply finish my degree a year early and go straight to grad school. Considering CMU’s master of product development (now called integrated innovation for products and services) and Penn’s Integrated Product Design. Both programs require a portfolio review, GRE scores, transcripts,etc. If I pursue this path, my undergrad would be a total of 3 years and then 1 or 2 years in the masters program mentioned (if I get accepted).

  2. Switch majors to Mechanical Engineering which I understand is the more traditional path who wants to get into product development. If I do this path, I might still graduate on time, or slightly later. So my undergrad would be a total of 4-5 years. I do not think I will go to grad school immediately if I do this.

I am asking this board because I am sure there are many engineers/designers here with the career that I hope to seek. Right now, I am uncertain if I want to be the one to actually MAKE the products, but I do know for sure that I want to be involved in bringing a new product to market. Whether it be in terms of handling the marketing, financing,etc. I’m considering switching to mechanical engineering as I feel that is the broader and safer choice, but it would definitely a pain.

Tough questions. Well first off, I graduated from CMU with a BA in ID many years ago and highly praise the program the I went through. My take is, unless you think you’ll be in the top 5-10% of your design class, you may as well have someone else do your design work. And even if you are in the top percentiles, it takes a good 5-10 years of professional work to really have a handle on finding good product design solutions. Engineering route, good choice. Again, there are years of professional work required to be able to work with a high knowledge/experience base. If you’re having questions about whether you’re willing to put the necessary time in, or not sure if you have a passion for things and how they’re made; become a CEO, learn how to raise money and go build your team!

Designing a product and bringing one to market are two very different things. While things like Kickstarter have certainly began to blur that line, traditionally it takes a hell of a lot of people all with different expertise/interests to bring a product to market.

From the little information provided, my recommendation would be to concentrate on marketing. A background in finance and an interest in product design / consumer empathy (assuming you possess this?) could make a nice combo for a marketer. Don’t overestimate the role a designer has in the product development process - it is often limited and very focused, despite what most designers like to think. If you are interested in the managing a P&L, determining pricing and sales mix, allocating advertising spend, etc. then trust me, an industrial design degree will most likely disappoint. :wink: