Daughter wants design&enginering, where are programs?

Hello Everybody,

My daughter has decided she would like to combine product design and engineering, she is switching from Biomedical engineering and a sophomore in college right now. She is a 4.0 student so all schools are open to her, anywhere in the US.

There are programs that say they are what she is looking for in Michigan at Grand Valley State University, Lawrence Tech, and Central Michigan. Out of state we know of Savanna college of are and design and I believe university of Cincinnati has one as well.

I personally am a graduate of CCS, and they do not offer what she is looking for, she likes what I do but loves the challenges of math, and her ideal job would be all the HCD work and sketching I do along with the technical aspect of manufacturing, packaging, materials, and research. ( I feel we do this in our jobs, but she is looking for more involvement in those areas than I have)

So, we are looking for schools that already have a program like this, and that I can call and talk to about the existing program.

Who has what we want?

I attended GVSU for business, and KCAD for my design degree so I know a lot of individuals from the GVSU program. From my perspective the program is really a generic Mechanical/Product engineer degree and I’ve never really seen any depth of design knowledge come from it rather than maybe some generic “design thinking” sprinkled in at times. I just asked a GVSU grad I sit by and he confirmed this as well, but I would also say its definitely not a BAD program, just not as design focused as they make it out to be. My gut says to look more into Lawrence Tech. The pro side of GVSU though is that if she really goes out and looks for opportunity Grand Rapids definitely has a flourishing design community and if she wanted to stay in the area or even intern there are companies like Herman Miller, Steelcase, Newell Rubbermaid and Stryker nearby that hold design to a high importance.

Stanford D School.
USC has a new Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business and Technology.
Maybe she can get a Engineering Degree and work for a consultancy or a company with a product design department.
What kind of products or for which brands/companies would she like to work for?
Good luck and congrats.

I’ve heard that some of the British schools are a bit more of a blend of ID and ME. I haven’t heard of a US school successfully doing that really.

Hey there, I’m an ME with a serious slant for design.

There’s a few things that may need to be looked at in what she’s looking for in a job. For one, there are few jobs that allow an ME to dig down to human centred design, market research and such. On the flip side, there are few ID job that allow the designer to get super deep in structural, manufacturing and other deep technical aspects.

The unfortunate truth is that most job posting you’ll see fit pretty squarely in one of the two boxes. There are hybrid roles, but they tend to be limited to very small companies, a few of the top consultancies that get to work from end to end on products, internal R&D “innovation” groups or companies that happen to manufacture locally.

I can’t think of an ME program that has a serious design slant. Unfortunately accreditation of the schools means the curriculums don’t deviate a lot. There are some multidisciplinary grad schools but I can’t think of anything undergrad.

As AVClub mentioned, being in a city with companies that do engineering but approach it from a design centric view would be a good way to go. Building a design portfolio is certainly possible as an ME but the time requirements to make that happen means you’re looking at finishing that a few years after school. That’s been the case for me, my design skills are now being recognized, 5 years out of school. I mean, I managed last week to pitch a product line and it’s been greenlight but I spent a serious amount of time on passion projects to gain those skills.

I think an interesting way to go about for her could be to transition into pure ME from Biomed for her next semester to finish her year. Take all the machine design, materials, strength of materials and manufacturing class she can. Then transfer into an ID program with a practical approach next year. Two years of eng school will certainly have given her a good base. (Not sure if sophomore is second year… I’m not from the US)

Both cases would very much come down to networking. In the right area, I think an ID with a practical sense or a design engineer that gets design will find their spot but it can be an uphill battle to get there.

Slightly unrelated, but why is your daughter not the one posting :stuck_out_tongue:

Western also has a program, however it is a newly started one. The history is a little strange with their program though (they shuttered the program around 2009). The old program was heavily engineering based (it was offered through the engineering college). It appears as though the new program is through the art school, and they have a brand new facility. Hopefully they can make it a successful program. I know there are a lot of good people and businesses in town that could supply good educators, mentors, sponsored projects and possibly employment opportunities.

I believe your daughter needs to choose one and have the other as secondary.

The fact of the matter is that a fresh graduate has little to no experience and needs to start somewhere. As a potential employer, I want what I want, your daughter gets absolutely no say. I’ll post for an ME or an IDer, you don’t see both for a fresh grad. Bonus for your daughter to say I am an IDer with good knowledge of ME or an ME with good knowledge of ID, but I am not hiring for both.

Once in, your daughter needs to stop the focus. We are all in new product development, not engineering, not industrial design, not marketing, not manufacturing, not RA/QA. Being in NPD will give you opportunity to do it all. Only after years of experience, then your daughter can be this hybrid, not directly out of school. She may even determine she wants to be an ME/RA/QA hybrid, or whatever combo floats her boat. I recommend patience.

btw, I won’t name names, but a large medical device company in MI has a difficult time hiring IDers. They don’t “fit” the profile. Quite frustrating because they highly value IDers. An interesting conundrum.

MI is great because you have medical, furniture and auto all competing for people. Your daughter may want to decide where she wants to start. If she is interested in medical, shoot me a PM, I may be able to assist.

+1 to what iab said

A former coworker of mine had a degree from Northwestern University in Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing & Design Engineering. He was a top-notch design engineer but had also taken some crossover courses in traditional ID topics.

When I went to RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology, in central New York) for ID they were just beginning to offer crossover programs between ID and Mechanical Engineering Technology (a more practical, less theoretical version of Mechanical Engineering). They were working on getting accreditation for an ME-Tech minor and an ID minor so that students in one major could get some exposure and learn basics in the other (the minors were obviously open to any other majors at the university too). I’m not sure where the accreditation ended up - I remember there being a hangup with using the word “engineering” in a lowly minor, but I graduated in 2006 so hopefully they’ve work it out by now.

I really enjoyed my experience there and they were very open to cross-disciplinary projects and coursework, but as has been said above you’ll have to pick one as your major and one as your minor. There is very little overlap in major degree requirements making a double major in the two a little crazy, besides what iab said above about the job market. I can’t speak to the number of crossover roles out there, but I did graduate with an ID major and ME-Tech (unaccredited) minor and I’d say my current role is about 50% ID and 50% engineering at a small consultant.

The University of Minnesota has a new program that includes all of the desired aspects of what your daughter is looking for in a Product Design program. The program is new and draws faculty from CCS, MIT, University of Cincinnati, University of Texas and University of Missouri. Classes are 60 - 70% female and growing. The program shares state of the art resources with the Architecture and Landscape Architecture programs and is closely affiliated with Graphics, Interior, Apparel and Housing Design programs. This is a program that is addressing the changes in the education market and is preparing graduates for jobs that will exist well into the future of entrepreneurial design, service design and design thinking.


Thank you all for sharing what you know and we appreciate the thoughtful responses and offers of help. We will look into all the schools mentioned, and, (hopefully) keep everyone updated on where and why. Our current step is creating an entry portfolio for appling to schools.