help on applying for design master!


im a student from UK. I am finishing my degree in Engineering next year and thinking of doing a master in design in Europe.

as im coming from an engineering background, i dont have much experience in design. i have realized that often a portfolio is required for application which is something new to me. i have done some design work as part of my industrial engineering degree and will be involved in more projects strongly associated with industry during my next year of study.

im wondering if anyone could give me some advice on whether a design course is suitable for me and how likely are the chances to get in? what preparations you would recommend in order to bring my professional level to the required standard?


the BEST possible path to take to get into an ID grad program:

  1. get a Bachelors degree in ID.
  2. get an ID job.
  3. work for several years in ID.
  4. plan a course of research.
  5. apply to schools of choice.

so is trying to get into an ID grad program with a sculpture background, is this a completely ridiculous idea?

don’t let me discourage you from going into ID at all.

I really believe most people dont appreciate the fact that a Bachleors is tailored to get people into the profession.
Much, Much more so than a Masters. (with the notable exeptions of IIT and Pratt who intentionally pick non-id students)

Let me ask you this (including the engineer who started this thread) should/could anyone from a different background get into a Masers of Sculpture program?
(Should anyone from a different background be able to walk into a Masters of Mechanical Engineering program?)

Why do so many people think that grad ID is like grad Architecture?

I think a sculpture or an engineering undergrad would be extremely beneficial for getting a master’s in ID. There is a wealth of expertise from those fields that many ID undergrads should aspire to.

who better than a sculptor to appreciate 3D form?

who better than an engineer to understand the limits of a material?

Put that together with the optimism and forward thinking of an ID student, at any level, and you have all the opportunity in the world.

Just curious, but what level of education have you completed, no spec?

no spec, an MFA in Sculpture program would take someone with a somewhat related degree if their portfolio was good enough. I got into several MFA Graphic Design programs with an undergrad degree in architecture. MS in Mechanical Engineering programs frequently accept students with backgrounds in fields like Electrical Engineering (though this is much less frequent with PhDs). For someone with real talent who has been pursuing the subject on their own and has related education, more schools are willing to be flexible than you indicate. I understand that you feel that your BFA was a really great, all-encompassing experience, but there are other paths available for people in other situations. And for all your disparaging of architecture, the 3.5 year first professional degree seems to work out pretty well for a lot of people.

I’m not disagreeing with you - lots of diverse interests and skills should be brought into the profession.

but can anyone, in any feild, anywhere, truly be a MASTER with 2-3 years of schooling? and no direct experience?

I appreciate all of your imput. In my opinion if someone show’s enough interest and vision in a certain profession they should be given the chance, however I’m just uncertain how common it is for someone with a fine arts background to get into an ID grad program. Is it common, is it extremely rare. I believe personally my scultpture background is pretty design oriented, however my computer 3d modeling skills are extremely limited. Would this throw me so far behind other grad students they don’t want to deal with that? again I appreciate everyones input.

it really depends on what you aim to become through the program.
If you want to become a ready and prepared designer, then most grad programs are not the choice.

In my opinion, a graduate program should be one that provides you a diverse and well-resourced platform for your research. Therefore, it will be best if you already have the technical skills required to further expand your scope. If not, it will be a struggle for you in both acquiring the skills that will take you to where you want to be, as well as to understand the design profession.

As I have seen, most graduate students from different backgrounds will tend to stick to something that they are familiar with. Sculpture background students will tend to use similar elements that they are familiar with and create art pieces, mostly to express their perceptions on design as opposed to actually executing a design. Is this what you are looking to do?

The same goes with someone with engineering degree. People of this nature are good problem solvers. However, graduate programs are usually for people who want to identify and define problems. Well, perhaps this will be a good form of training for engineers. However, like I said, the required skills as well as design methods will be what’s lacking.

It also depends on the program. Several European programs are more technical than US ones. Some, on the other hand, offers more freedom but less guidance.

You should carefully examine the individual programs. Check what they offer, as well as what opportunities you can gain from it. Talk to the instructors, but more importantly, talk to their current students.

If you want to be a designer ready to take on the industry, consider an undergrad course instead.

Cow, you make some good points. However, I disagree that the master’s program may not work for someone in this situation.

Will it be a challenge? Absolutely. However, with a few undergrad courses thrown in it shouldn’t be that bad. Most people returning to school have much better focus and work habits than they did the first time around. They will catch up quickly skillswise if they are passionate about it.

And, when you examine a typical undergrad program, many classes really have little to do with design- there’s electives and required courses that make up the bulk of the first two years- things that someone with an undergrad has already taken but unfortunately may not get credit for.

A master’s program on the other hand has only a few courses outside of design- making it much more concentrated. Although someone without an undergrad in ID may need to work on skills like sketching or cad (take some undergrad classes), many times a master’s program will be more in tune with their previous experience and mental state.

Their previous experience and curriculum many times will put someone ahead of the game, so they can instead concentrate on what they need.

The best thing is to indeed talk to the professors and the students in both degree programs and bring some work for them to give feedback on. Ultimately, its something everyone has to decide for themselves.


Have you taken a look at the Industrial Design Engineering program at RCA?

Like Pratt and IIT, it is geared toward non-designers interested in Industrial Design. It specifically aims for those with engineering backgrounds though, and frequently produces some incredible work. If I were an EU citizen, I would’ve tried to go there.

ohboy has it completely backwards.

In a 2nd Bachelors: general education requirements often transfer entirely. Your time would be focused exclusivly on core curriculum and you’d typically graduate in 3 years.

in a Masters program your 2 years are split between studio courses and theory/research. (Grad Seminars require a great deal of reading and writing with presentations and discussions). Grad students are also supposed to help teach or do research for one of the tenured faculty - outside of coursework (thats why so many programs require a bachelors in ID).
Toss in a few undergraduate classes and you graduate in 3 years.

Which sounds like a better way into a 1st job? Not that a Masters is a bad idea, but if it’s a career your after, the 2nd bachelors would make that portfoloio!

I guess this is where we’re coming from different points of view… you seem to assume that someone applying for a masters in another field has done nothing to gain those skills learned in undergrad. I assume that someone applying for a masters in another field knows they’re at the back of the pack and has done everything possible, like learning computer programs, practicing sketching, reading the books commonly assigned in undergrad classes, and maybe even taking some night courses, to get to the appropriate level. I may be wrong that most do this- I assumed it because it is what I did.

So yes, I’ll absolutely agree that if you aren’t willing to put in the work to get yourself to the level to do the graduate coursework (and yes, research, which can only further your understanding of the field), then go find an undergrad program. In fact, if you don’t put in that work it’s not terribly likely you’ll get accepted to a masters program in the first place. But if you are willing to put in a considerable amount of work into catching up on what you’re lacking before starting the program, then a graduate degree will only help your portfolio, because the design classes you take will be with a higher level of student and a higher expectation from the teacher, which pushes your work further.

completely? strong words…

this varies highly among different programs

I don’t see how this can hurt at all.

Depends on how many courses are needed to catch up. It might only mean summer classes if possible or an extra class for a few quarters or semesters. As for teaching, why couldn’t an engineer teach a cad, or materials or fasteners class? Nothing says it has to be design sketching to be a valid class.

As I’ve been saying, this is something that each person needs to decide on their own, preferably after talking to professors and students in the programs they are interested in.

Dont take my word for it, read the other threads on the Grad vs. undergrad debate.