Chicago grad schools - IIT vs. UIC?

Well, as all the prior posts seem to be gone, let me ask a question that has surely come up before:

I am currently living in Chicago as a practicing ID’er, and I’m looking to expand on my design education. However, I’m not real keen on moving at the moment. Can anyone give me their input on either of these two schools? I know that IIT tends more towards the design management end of ID, but beyond that I know little. I am interested in what one might expect to gain from either curriculum. Anyone been through either program, and care to share their experiences?

From what I have seen, IIT’s program is much more progressive and advanced as compared to UIC’s, which I am less familiar with. Your best bet would be to visit the schools, though. Especially since you have a design degree already I would personally look towards IIT, they will offer you a program that will help you expand and extend your abilities, as opposed to basically another BA/BS. IIT has a management track, but they also offer other areas of concentration, too.

Columbia also has an ID program (not sure if they offer grad) and Northwestern has started a new Product Development Masters degree that seems interesting too.

Thanks - I’ll check into NU. I did look up Columbia, as I knew they had an undergrad ID course, but no luck for grads. I hear you on IIT - my friend who went there said the same thing, but there’s no sense in relying on one opinion, right? :wink:

Anyone been to UIC that can lend an opinion?

Here’s that NU link:

Stay warm.

I looked at both schools. My impression + what I was told

IIT: Nice tour received. Super cool with a brand new building, downtown, new equipment and everything digital boards, good guest lecturers, etc. Students usually get really good jobs out of here, students spend 70 or so hours a week on projects and tuition for the two years is 48k!!! with what I learned was no room for part time work or scholarships or other tuition assistance. Don’t forget living in Chicago is expensive.

For me, I decided not to apply and save myself from going in 40-50k debt. Regardless of whatever paying jobs they get. I figured I can do just as well, elsewhere.

UIC: First off good luck getting around the labrynth they’re housed in. Some of the stuff was kind off, not run down, just not really nice. They had a really good sized model lab, decent comps and software, on a nice campus, much cheaper, like maybe 24-30k, but with opportunities to get tuition waived such as TA or other means.

I applied, they said we’re not taking anyone this yr to revamp our program. That could be good or could be bad as far as how the program is now.

On being a practicing ID’er. I could be wrong, but I thought I remebered that both programs were FULL-TIME. Can you get your company to help pay for this?

That was my impression three years ago of both. I ended up elsewhere :slight_smile: If you could get a PDMasters that was like an MBA that would be outstanding!

Thanks for the detailed run-down, 27. Actually, I was indeed looking at fulltime programs; I’m in sort of a dead-end career path at the moment, and I was looking for a new direction. Part of me thinks it’s worth it to take time off, if it’s the best way to move forward.

Like yourself before, I guess I am questioning whether it’s more cost-effective to go further in debt, or take a lower-paying design job that has more interest to me than my current one. I guess it wouldn’t hurt for me to make an application, then decide later on in the year whether these grad programs are worth my money…

Thanks again for the info.


I am finishing up my masters degree at Cornell in their Design and Environmental Analysis Department. Check it out :[url][/url]

Like all programs it has its pros and cons. Lots of research not a lot of design, but Cornell has lots of resources. Also I have had teaching assistantships and received funding from other sources so no debt - that is a big, big plus!! There are ways to get paid to go to school, in my opinion that is the best way to go about pursuing an advanced degree.

Good luck!


The man you want to talk to over at UIC is Bil(only one L) Becker. Extremely nice guy, graduated from Cranbrook, and was under the impression he was running the program along the path of environmental design. However when I applied last year, they had suspended the program for a year for restructuring purposes, so you might want to look into that. Apparently not all the i’s and t’s had been crossed yet. As for IIT, I don’t know much about it other than what I’ve heard, which is that it is a world renown school for people wanting to get into Design Management and research (I don’t know this for a fact). And for it’s worth, ID magazine ranks IIT as one of its top ten schools.

Good Luck

IIT is probably one of a handful of design grad programs in the country you should even consider. They are definitely on the cutting edge of design practice.

You could argue that the aesthetic/talent aspect of design cannot be taught. That said the approach IIT’s taken is to ditch that aspect of the program (undergrad) in exchange for teaching the part of design that can be taught: the strategy, research and planning to enable design.

I’ve looked at the program several times over the years, and like what I see, but at the end of the day they’re not offering me anything that I’m not already practicing as a professional designer.

However there is tremendous credibility to be had if you don’t have it already. I always love meeting and talking to IIT grads.

The Art Institute of Chicago offers an MFA in “Designed Objects”. I’m not sure if the program can be considered to be Industrial Design exactly, but the course listings look pretty decent:

I am currently a student at IIT. So far my experience with the school has been extremely positive and I believe the cost of the education is well worth it. The school is not for everyone, though. It is an extremely demanding program and students work day and night. Students who come here are extremely dedicated to getting the most out of their education. There are three tracks that the school offers: Human-Centered Communication Design, Human-Centered Product Design, and Design Planning. Attending an open house would probably be the best way to get a flavor for the school and its culture. Good luck!