GaTech, NCSU, App State, UC DAAP - visit impression

Hello Core-

Recently I visited 4 schools (2 grad and 2 undergrad ID programs) and am writing to share my impressions of each, “briefly”:

UC DAAP - the cream of the crop. The program is pretty big, has a fancy building, and the university itself has brilliant architecture and modern facilities. DAAP had the most organized visit, mainly a one-on-one with the ID program coordinator. The assistant director of DAAP gave me a quick tour of campus that mainly focused on the recent buildings. This was the only school where I talked to current students, all of whom were polite and friendly. I sat in on a seminar class here as well, and walked around to some of the other classes that were in progress. The ID coordinator really did show me everything. We talked to two of the transportation faculty, who both made cases for coming to UC. The mood of the building was really pretty casual, certainly less pretentious than the architecture (Peter Eisenman of House VI fame). The workshop and fabrication lab are WELL appointed and there is no shortage of tooling or workspace.

The strengths of DAAP are traditional ID; product design and transportation. If you are looking to work for a company like Hasbro, for example, this is the place to be. There model cars looked awesome, just as good as CCS’s NAIAS entrants. Admittedly they are a bit weak in relationships with the furniture industry (my interest).

Overall, I don’t think you can go wrong with UC. It has the facilities, the faculty, and strong students, and of course, is geared toward the working world. Apparently it’s possible to finance your studies through the co-op program as well.

APPALACHIAN STATE - A small school with a big heart, App State is the underdog. Remember a few years ago when their football team beat the Michigan Wolverines? Well, they are up-and-coming in the ID department, too. There are two concentrations, furniture and products. Again, the ID coordinator gave me a comprehensive tour. What was interesting was that the building was pretty plain, nothing fancy, but they did have a lot of workshop spaces that were split into different areas, metal, wood, and then a couple rooms for the CNC and prototyping machines. On the day I arrived so did a new MIG welder, and a new rapid prototyper was on order, too.

The work that is posted on the walls is of the highest quality. The department’s links with companies in the area are apparent in some sponsored work. NC is a main center for furniture, with craft furniture in the highlands and production in the Piedmont. There were some photos of students’ contemporary furniture that had won contests in the hall, and it was very good. The faculty list is rather impressive, and I spoke to one new addition for a good amount of time, much to my benefit.

What is funny is that App State does not have the fanciest building or well-known reputation, but like UC, all the pieces are there for a strong program, and it shows in the students’ work, which was just as good as what I saw at UC. I noticed that whereas in UC, you are in a city campus bubble, and the community is the university, App State seemed to be connected to the region, and also the Piedmont. In fact, the ID coordinator was going to High Point the next day to the Home Furnishings Market. Students also go to the ICFF in NYC. The program really seems to have its act together and the students are producing great work.

NCSU - The wolfpack has got your back. NC State is another university with a rising reputation. The sprawling Centennial Campus hosts most of the engineering and tech sector industry collaborations. It was here that I sat in on a cross-listed class for business, engineering, and design. Everything is interdisciplinary these days, especially in grad skool. The design school is back on main campus, split between an old and new building. The facilities were pretty good, and the grad students had an open work area with huge desks and a row of computers with Wacom Cintiqs. The concept sketches I saw on students desks were of textbook quality. Just amazing.

I sat in on a studio class that was beginning a project. The most recent were assistive technology devices. The concepts to attempt to solve were pretty complex, as was to be expected. While it seemed that the program carried every bit of intellectual hochnaesigkeit one would expect from a grad program, I also could tell that the instructor was preparing the students for real world success. He explained the need for a designer to be able to work in every aspect of product development, including final styling. I learned a lot from that class, actually, in only a few minutes of instruction, and kept wishing I could raise my hand and comment on things. It was very engaging.

NCSU clearly has excellent faculty and facilities, a kind and knowledgeable shop manager (ditto for the aforementioned), facilities, but is also part of a an excellent research university. The program has links with both the engineering and the business schools and the class I observed gave a realistic (and therefore dry) angle of product development.

GEORGIA TECH - What’s all the Buzz about? The ID program is now it’s own School, rather than a program within the School of Architecture. Georgia Tech was considering axing the ID program altogether, but now it will have a bit more autonomy. The new director, Jim Budd, gave me a tour of the studios and workshops. The program is undergoing some changes and it was plain to see that it was in a transition phase.

There are a few workshops which are disjointed and haphazardly organized. In the primary woodshop, they did have every machine you would be likely to use, and two rapid prototyping machines. The studio seems comfortable; it’s a long narrow room with student’s desks together in twos to make one giant table. Across campus is CATEA, a research area for assistive technology, is a spacious workshop funded by grants. The $5 mil Advanced Wood Products, just off campus, was a joint venture between GaTech and an Italian furniture company that dissolved 2 years ago, but the building remains open and has many machines still.

Overall, the impression from Georgia Tech is mixed. The program is in flux and lacks focus in some of the common areas of ID. The focus is on health, design for the third world, assistive technology/universal design, and computing (using sensors in everyday applications). There were some student works on display, but nothing really noteworthy. I didn’t sit in on any classes this time, but did once a couple years ago, for a grad studio class. I remember thinking that it was challenging and that I wished to be in the class. The students I spoke to were all very friendly, open, and intelligent. I remember that students around were all very cheery and all said ‘hi’ to then-director Abir Mullick. The mood of the place was very positive.

All in all, Georgia Tech seems like a great place to be for studying the areas in which they already have a strong focus. In other areas, it seems like you must be strongly self-motivated, but that there are other resources around the campus that are at your disposal, though it may be tricky becoming friendly with other departments. The School of ID is new, it has a new director and a new graduate adviser (who was the previous undergrad adviser). Overall, is seems like a small program that is finding its way at a great University. After nearly getting the axe and losing the AWPL collaboration, the MID program will certainly require strong direction, and that is why Mr. Budd is there. I am uncertain of whether he will make the program more well-rounded; I didn’t really get the feeling that is a priority. There are a lot of complex projects that require team-based collaboration with other departments, tackling large problems such as hospital room design, rather than ordinary consumer products.

If there are any current of former students out there, I’d love to hear from you, thanks!

Thanks for the great recap. Any pics from the tour?

I went through Tech’s MID program (I have an engineering background) and your assessment is pretty spot-on regarding the areas you were able to visit. Georgia Tech is a bit of a tough school for graduate level ID in that you really have to be VERY proactive in determining what you want to get out of it, but you can really get connected to a lot of great people and resources if you are focused.

Some other strong points of their program include work you can do with other schools and organizations located on campus. I did my thesis work with an adviser that was focused on sustainable initiatives, and those offices were practically on the other side of campus. Another really strong resource for graduate ID was through their IDT program, which is part of their liberal arts school. It is an excellent and highly-developed program that could really sky-rocket an MID focused on Interaction design into some great thesis work, although it doesn’t have any classes cross-listed with the ID school. I have high hopes, from both the new director and the new funded Chair which is ME/ID, that we’ll see some cross-pollination between the stellar engineering schools and ID - that could become a great combination.

But as for you, the areas you visited and mentioned seem the most related to your focus and work and I feel you probably received a fair assessment. By the sound of it you’d be on the 3 year track to supplement your lack of design background; the time line there is something else to consider. Tech’s MID is a ton of time establishing/researching/writing thesis materials, and if you’re not into that aspect of design work then it will be a pretty big waste of your time. You might take a look at some past Tech ID theses online to see how people integrated their love of furniture design into a research project, and see if that’s something you could see yourself doing. Otherwise, it might just be one big headache that doesn’t help you achieve your goal.

Sorry if that’s negative - I just want to make sure you’re considering what’s going to get you where you want to go. Maybe auditing some courses, or looking into working at CATEA part time as a research assistant might be possible without going through the full program. I’m not bashing their program at all - I had a great experience there, and my MID provided exactly what I wanted and needed. If you like, PM me and I’ll try to connect you to some folks that worked at the AWPL before its demise that might be able to give you some advice as well.

edit: Oh yeah, that vacuformer is as old as Moses. We used to cook pizzas on it sometimes. :slight_smile:

Yo: No pics but am going to NC State next week so maybe I’ll get some of NCSU.

Modern Artisan: Thanks a lot for the info!

bump for updates of the other schools

this is a great post, very helpful. thanks for putting in the time to do it


Saw this today while I was snooping around the forums. I’m currently a 4th year (we call it Junior year) at UC DAAP. I’d agree with what you have said. Of course my view is slightly bias, but I can’t speak high enough of the program. Coming from little to no design background, the school has taken each student, from any skill level, and put them in a position to be working in this industry. The biggest and by far the greatest part of the program is the co-op program. There really is no way to teach in a classroom the things you learn working a real job. I’m currently in my forth quarter of co-op and have 3 products coming to market at the end of this year. How great those products are is up for debate haha, but seriously having the opportunity to even be in a position to design products for companies, to be working in the industry is amazing.

In terms of prototyping, work area, etc. we have all the tools you could ever really need. We feel pretty lucky about having such resources for our projects, and the school has always put an emphasis on creating our designs through prototypes, and not just digitally. It’s an aspect of design that not everyone focuses on anymore, and it is somewhat of a unique experience to learn all those tools.

Now I will say that if you are interested in furniture, I believe there is a furniture studio you can take (outside of the ID curriculum). Besides that, our final project each and every for 4th year students is designing and manufacturing a chair. That’s probably the one project everyone looks forward to (in the product design track). Another thing to consider, is though you may not have met people who had many contacts, or heard about many contacts in the furniture industry, don’t underestimate the ability to make those contacts. UC has little to no contacts within the bicycle industry, and I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of people this last academic quarter actively in the industry and build my own contact list. The school even sent a few students to Interbike, national bike convention, in Vegas this year to present work we did in the summer (electric bicycles).UC has a long established well respected program and you can find alumni anywhere and meet people all over the place.

I won’t bore you with every detail, but if you, or anyone, have/has any questions about UC specifically I can do my best to answer them.

Thanks a lot for the good information. I’ll send you a PM. I applied to UC last week. Keep it coming, students and alumni!

As an alum of NC State (1989) and tried to help Appalachian State as they developed their program, I am gad to hear things are going well.

NCSU '93. Duke and UNC medical schools makes for a great opportunity in medical device design.

Cheap like dirt back then, looks like it is still inexpensive today. You also could get residency in 1 year back in the day, great for this carpetbagger. I don’t know the rules now.

Year, in the 80’s it was about $400 per semester for in-state students. Very helpful as my parents had three kids going through college at the same time.