industrial design and engineering?


i’ve been looking at attending syracuse university for a degree in industrial design. would it be a good idea to take some engineering classes? i was thinking that having some engineering knowledge would make me a better designer. any advice?


It depends on what type of engineering. Electrical? Mechanical? Material Properties? Human Factors?

The look of a product often makes it attractive while hiding or having little to do with the engineering. But in all cases, the look and engineering must eventually come together hand in hand. The possibilities are infinite.

I was in school with some “engineering background” people who really struggled to dream or let go of their stringent thinking. Some didn’t make it.

I think most designers (myself included) come to appreciate the engineering of a product much more in professional life than in school. Real world work will mandate it.

Consider what you dream of doing most in a design career, and consider some engineering focus that is related. i.e. bicycles and basic physics, or consumer electronics and electrical engineering.

Industrial Design is very different from Engineering even though the two are a marriage. Know what you want to do with your design career.

I think taking some real materials and mechanical engineering classes will certainly make you a better designer. As an ID’er, you’ll likely interface with mechanical and materials engineers on a regular basis. It’ll give you a a clearer understanding of how to communicate with them, and what they do - you’ll be able to talk intelligently about the issues, search the proper journals and do research, and have empathy for the process. Some caveats: many engineering courses have heavy pre-reqs, so be careful not to get too far sidetracked… Take some survey courses and keep your eye on the prize - if you like engineering, and can see yourself merging them and doing well, different story - go nuts.

Good luck, and way to think ahead!

thanks for the advice. i’ve been weighing the pros and cons of a university vs. an art school and i think i’m leaning towards a university for the interdisciplinary work in areas such as id and engineering. some online product design portfolios i’ve looked at recently have been put out by individuals who are designers with a foundation in engineering. i definitely want to focus on id, but i want to have a versatile background.

i agree with what both of you have said. thanks again.


i go to syracuse university and i know a kid that takes engineering classes in addition to id. He says its pretty mucha bunch of math and science so it does not really help witht he building aspect of design. However, it does give him a better knowledge of how to mesh design with engineering (as that is what we must do when we are professionals). On the other hand, Syracuse offers a wide variety of materials courses - plastics, wood, metals, fibers, paper, etc. and these are all areas tha a good designer should have in his/her catalog of reference. In my personal opinion, i think it is better to have a broad knowledge of materials and craft that you can reference rather than an engineering base - you can leave that part to the engineers themselves.