Carnegie Mellon Vs. Virginia Tech HELP!!!

I need your help, an outside opinion. I have narrowed down my college choices to Virginia Tech and Carnegie Mellon. I have been accepted into the Industrial Design program at both schools. The cost of Virginia Tech would be pretty much covered, however, in order to go to Carnegie Mellon we would need to take an additional loan of $12,000 per year. I need to decide by May first and I’m not sure what to do. I really liked Carnegie Mellon but I’m not sure if it’s worth the additional loans. Both schools have very good names but Carnegie is apparently 3rd in the country for Industrial Design. Any suggestions, opinions would be appreciated, thanks!

I can offer my $0.02, but it’s an opinion based on graduating 17 years ago…darn, I’m getting old…

I went to CMU from '89 yo '93, not really knowing that I wanted to get into Industrial Design - at the time, I was going to go into fine art for illustration. Thank goodness I found design!

I know the school has gone through a lot of transformation in focus, teachers, tools and other aspects. But, at it’s core, CMU is founded inside of a very technically-based university, Having the robotics department (1st/2nd/or 3rd in the world interchangeably with MIT/Cal Tech), a most excellent Computer Science school (again, one of the top 3 in the country), and a most excellent engineering department are invaluable resources to the university and the designer that seeks them out for what they can learn from each.

The Sloan School of Business is a great resource as well, and there are classes offered in product development that are cross-discipline and include engineering, design and business undergrads/grads, that is a most excellent first blush with developing products as part of a cross functional team.

I’m not sure if Steve Stadlemeyer is still department head, but he is a very good teacher (he was my teacher 2nd year). The community is very involved in the university, so there are a lot of visiting teachers who also practice.

One of the key features of the program (when I went through it) was a foundation education called the Core. Basically, whether you were intending to enter art or design, you all took classes together at the College of Fine Arts. You took drawing as well as 2d and 3d basic design the first year. Year two, you decided if you were entering art or design. If you entered design, you had both graphic and form design, in addition to shop fundamentals, computer as design tool, drawing, etc. Year 3, you had to decide if you were going to do graphic or industrial (and now, they have added interface design…). Year 3 was the year to begin focusing in the discipline you wanted to have. Year 3 and 4 is a very intense, studio-centric time to really work on and hone your specific design degree.

At the time, one thing CMU really focused on was developing creative thinkers for 10 years out. It was obtuse at the time, as we were so hungry to develop awesome drawing, modelling and other design skills, but only afterward did I appreciate the time and effort that the teachers and program took to make us excellent design thinkers. That, more than anything, is what I have benefitted most from…

All in all, it was a wonderful experience for me.

The city of Pittsburgh is wonderful, and is a technical hub - CMU and Pitt have both really benefitted from the resurgence that took place when I was there in the early 90’s. The city is a gem, and offers a lot to anyone who is looking to explore. Can’t say enough good about it.

I can offer any other opinions or insights I have, but again, they are a little out of date when compared to what CMU is now. That being said, some of the core beliefs that were a part of the program then, are most likely still relevant today…



I just took a peek at what CMU design is, and boy, has it changed…for the better, but it’s changed.

A lot of the same teachers I had (Stadlemeier, Merryman, Moyar, Mentzer, etc.) are still there, but the new crop is in as well. The Core I spoke of is now a design-focused core of both Communication Design and Industrial Design year 1, with a focus in one or the other starting year 2.

Good too see a few of my old school mates (a couple years older than I ) as teachers there…Sica, Kasabach, etc.

Much has changed, but I still think it’s an excellent school…


Both are good schools - and personally, I went to VT specifically because I didn’t want to graduate with a dumptruck of debt.

I think VT is obviously more of a rural scene compared to living in Pittsburgh, but it’s a beautiful town when it’s not raining and the one of the tightest knit communities you’ll find.

VT has a very strong and also a very technical based atmosphere where you will have plenty of opportunities to be surrounded by engineers, business people and robots. The ID program is also well represented on this forum so maybe some students can chime in if they aren’t too busy trying to get their final projects done by next week. :smiley:

If you have any particular questions let me know but an extra $50k not being taken out of your pocket is something I would urge you to seriously consider. It’s the reason I went out and bought an expensive car straight out of school. :mrgreen:

I’m a Hokie and dang proud. An incredible college experience as well as a wonderful design program. I’m still incredibly close with a lot of my studio from freshman year.

I chose the school based on a great program, the surrounding mountains to play in, fun campus atmosphere that knows how to work hard/play hard, and anytime I met an alumni it was like meeting a closet Metalica fan: Their eyes would light up, and they would get animated describing the greatness that is rural Blacksburgh.

My advice: Find your own priorities and make the decision. Your education will yield what you put into it.

Best of luck (Go Hokies)…

Hey man, I’m currently a 3rd year in ID at Virginia Tech. I really like it here and the program has improved so much since I was a freshman. There is a lot of changes taking place right now for the better and it’s awesome to see each incoming class getting better and better.

Like cyberdemon said, it is very technical, which is a good thing, but we do have plenty of skill-based classes such as sketching, rendering, cad programs, etc. You get a well rounded education and hopefully become a well rounded designer (depending on how much work and time you put into it :wink: ).

Also, the professors here really do stress the importance of understanding your user and finding a deeper meaning behind why you are designing this product, and why it functions the way it does. Yeah it’s fun to do stylizing projects, but I feel you become a stronger designer if your projects have more meaning than a really cool stylized product (don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff too).

If you have any questions shoot me an email or just ask them on this board!


I think this is one of the points I made when graduating and it’s glad to see 3 years later they can still say the same thing. I’ve been hugely impressed by the rapid increase in talent of the kids. I know when I graduated in '07 sketching was just starting to be pushed as “important” and the overall skill level was very weak- and if you look at some of the VT students who post on these boards, the skill level has bumped up incredibly across the board in only a few years. The fact that this level of rise keeps happening gives me hope that VT will really boost it’s reputation even further in the next few years as a truly great school - not just a great school for the money.

Also after practicing in the real world for a few years, I can tell you that they have an extremely strong research and professional development focus, which I can see is really not evident in a lot of work in portfolios these days, and is essential to good real world design.

@ Cyberdemon

Ya, sketching here has really improved, which is awesome to see. Akshay (not sure if he was here when you were here) has really been motivating people to sketch. Not to mention the 3 new cintiqs we received down here in Burchard :smiley: .

Akshay was there, I was the one who came down to give the lecture on digital sketching when the Cintiqs first got purchased, not sure if you were in that or not.

Both are pretty good. If you like rankings, CMU has been in the top 3 for a couple of years now along with UC and ACCD.

  1. Small tight community. Don’t know how big VT is, but people are very friendly here and close.
  2. Good connections with other top colleges. Most of CMU’s schools are also tops in the nation. Tepper, Computer Science, Engineering (CIT), HCI (human computer interaction), so you get very good exposure to very smart and talented students from all disciplines. Our HCI school is tops and HCI is HOT HOT HOT in the job market now. You are able to get a double major in ID and HCI pretty easily and finding a job will be cake (if you are good)
  3. Legit sponsored projects. As you move into Junior and Senior year, sponsored projects come up everywhere because our school has so many legit programs. You’ll get a chance to work with Engineers, Business students in big projects. For example, I’m currently working with GM and Nissan.
  4. You get a really solid foundation in the practicals: usability, research, user centered design. CMU is all about that.

There’s probably a lot more. More specific questions would help yourself and us better. Good luck

Virginia Tech also offers a lot of sponsored studios from Sophomore year and up. Usually do at least one each year.

@ Cyberdemon
Not sure if you have seen this but it’s pretty exciting for our program

I really appreciate everyone responding to my post. Thanks so much. I ended up choosing Virginia Tech.

Go Hokies! :smiley: