Industrial/Product Design Schools

I’ve been having a REALLY hard time finding graduate schools that will accept me withOUT an Industrial/Product Design BA degree from undergrad. I’m graduating from Penn State main campus at the end of next December and most of the schools I have found, require a portfolio which I do not have. I’ll be graduating with a degree in Industrial Engineering (has nothing to do with what I want to do for the rest of my life^) and I don’t really have room for extra classes and such. Pratt University in Brooklyn, NY has a THREE year Master’s Program that accepts students without a BA in ID and they use the first year to bring their grad students up to par with basically what they should have known in undergrad. I can’t seem to find any other schools like this (Pratt doesn’t require a portfolio) and I would really like to head to Chicago after graduation. Do you great people know of other schools in the U.S. that are like Pratt? Preferably in Chicago? Philadelphia University has one but I don’t recall if they require a portfolio or not (I think they did). I could REALLY use some help right now… Some school websites aren’t 100% specific. Thanks in advance. :bulb:

Honestly, I would be wary of any program, grad or undergrad, that does not require a portfolio, it can say a lot about how they maintain the quality of talent within their curriculum.

That said, graduate school will not provide you a shortcut to becoming an Industrial Designer, if anything, what you’ll learn in a grad program is that you should have gone for the undergrad degree. Pratt might offer a 1 year “get up to speed” option, but you should have some sort of foundational art skills and be honest about your talent level.

You could check out Columbia in Chicago.

Hell if I were you I’d go for a masters in Industrial Engineering with a focus in the petrol industry. Then you can retire early and do whatever you want.

Imaging if someone said: “I’ve been having a hard time finding med schools that will accept me with out a pre med degree.”

Do you really want to a school that would accept ill prepared students and eject them into the work place with a diploma but little ability to get a job? Undergraduate courses require portfolios from highschool students. If they can do it I would think someone with a bachelors can manage. If you really want todo this, put together a portfolio of work.

I believe NC State has a 3-year program.

Actually, that is a growing trend in med schools. They are increasingly looking for a more diverse student than those who’s sole focus was med school. These well-rounded students are more committed, less likely to burn out and in the long run will be better docs.

Industrial design consultancies follow this strategy and hire a diverse group. Same can be said with certain corporate groups. No need to punish someone for not following a traditional path. Especially in design.

Just checked their site, they still have it.

I know a banker who went through the program. One of the best designers I have met.

THANK YOU… Seriously.

This is true. However, I would interpret Micheal’s point rather being about a solid foundation in the actual field and that there are just no short cuts.
Having a diverse background is definitely beneficial but skills have to be developed at some point and they have to be developed from the ground up.

My background are the culinary arts and I was a chef both in Europe and the US before I switched to design. While my culinary experience and having worked under a lot of pressure helps me in my design work, I still needed to go through as least a few years on undergrad level. It was first when I switched to gradschool (after Junior year undergrad), that I was able to fully use my previous experience and tie it successfully to my design career.
I am certain that my background was a positive factor in getting hired by a consultancy, but core ID skills still have to be there.

Going straight to the Masters would have never worked for me. Best case scenario it would have been a waste of time and expense, worst case it would have frustrated me so much that I would have lost my drive and passion for ID.

That is the reason for a 3-year masters program. 1st year is for fundamentals.

Understood, but the OP wants to even pass the portfolio prep. Bebpster elaborated on my thoughts nicely, it is not about punishment, it is about reality. If someone doesn’t have the passion, drive, initiative, hutzpah (call it what you will) to put together a portfolio, that is not a good sign, at least to me.

I’m not much of an academic person. I know people who have had no formal training in design, or at least no training in ID. In fact 4 of my former bosses were not trained in design and all 4 other were excellent industrial designers. The first was trained as an architect, the second had no degree other than a few drafting classes, the third was an apparel designer, the fourth a graphic designer… They sure didn’t shy away from making a portfolio though. Quite the opposite, they proactively would make concept projects and show them to any designer they could beg, cajole, or force to look and give feedback.

In my opinion, design relies heavily on what you can do. One of the best tools for showing what you can do is a portfolio. While you could argue a school’s job is to help you do that, the school also has to make sure it is starting with the right raw material. Their only real measure of that is a portfolio review in my opinion.

The sooner you go through the process of conceptualizing design solutions, visualizing them in some manner and composing them into a portfolio of work the better.

Also, I think calling something a masters if you graduate with a bachelors level of competency is somewhat awkward, but I think I may be in the minority there. Why not just do a bachelors and transfer enough credits to knock a year off vs tacking on a year to a masters? Perhaps I’m taking the word “masters” too literally to mean you are mastering a particular subject matter.

I think @yo is right, you need to have the attitude and the passion to go for it. You studied engineering, for sure you have some cool projects on your back, just put it together, draw some and make a good presentation. Showing motivation and willingness to do more than the minimum is what will take you far away, specially in a field like industrial design, where most of us really have the passion and enjoy doing this.

Look at this guy, for example, a mechanical engineer who taught himself how to sketch. Now is a designer at Peugeot

You will get no argument from me that if you put nothing into something you will get nothing out.

That said, if someone is willing to give up their life for design, hardly a stellar career choice when compared to other professions, I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they are serious. I certainly won’t get defensive and say a particular path is the only path.

Also, getting a masters outside your bachelors major is extremely common. Most, if not all schools allow it. Many without any prerequisites. Some will require a portfolio, some will require certain courses. But I am not going to armchair quarterback a university’s policies.

And we all know the first year of any bachelors is complete and utter bullsh!t. I took my 20 credits of humanities. I don’t ever need to take them again. I have no interest in psych 102 and it will be about as useful as psych 101.

agreed, there is no single path. At the end of the day, you can make it happen any number of ways. Get to it OP :wink:


There are a few graduate programs that may accept you without a background in design.

Masters of Integrated Product Design (IPD) at University of Pennsylvania

Master of Science, Engineering Design and Innovation (EDI) at Northwestern

Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services at CMU

They’ll accept non-design folks, but may require a portfolio of CAD and basic sketches or problems that you have solved. I’m in the IPD program at UPenn, so if you have any specific questions about my program, feel free to ask.

Or, you can consider the University of Technology in Eindhoven, the Netherlands!

Their Industrial Design program is genuinely a great education, based on a new learning model that is based around giving you the opportunity to develop yourself into the designer that you want to become, whether that’s more on the artistic, the technical, or the business side. You will be coached individually (I am one of the coaches) and there are all kinds of courses ranging from art and design classes, user research, software and hardware technology, business process design, basically anything that is needed for the multidisciplinary designer of the future. You have the opportunity to develop your own projects within a wide range of themes. I think you should be able to get in with your degree, there is a 6 month pre-master program you will have to take in order to show that you can be a good designer.

The people are great, there’s an international community, all of our ambitions are high, and it’s the same as Chicago weather-wise, so bring your scarf and have a good time!

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