Masters Programs for Design and Craft?


This is my first time posting here, though I’ve been sifting through these boards for a good while. Please bear with me.

I’ve been working as an Industrial Designer for 3 years (mainly IT products) and I feel its time for a slight change of path. I am looking for a Masters program that combines Design and Craft or offers opportunities to take courses in different crafts (weaving, ceramics, etc.) in addition to focusing on ID.

I’ve only really found one program (PNCA Applied Craft and Design) that fits the bill. However, I’m not sure that this is the school for me. Which leads me to the following questions:

-Do you have any recommendations for Graduate programs that focus on Design and Craft?
-If not, what other schools would you suggest where I could take other courses along with my main focus of ID?or is this wishful thinking?

  • Any graduates of PNCA Applied Craft and Design? could you share with me your experience during and after the program?

Thank you so much!

Do you have a sense for what you want to be doing after the graduate degree? That might help shape the conversation.

Thank you for replying!

I’ve been thinking about that question for a while and I can’t succinctly say what I really want to do. I know that I want to move away from tech products and move more into the realm of furniture, lighting, homeware, and textiles. I wouldn’t mind working at a design firm or starting something on my own (that would be a lot farther off down the road).

I really want to utilize my time in graduate school to explore more mediums and different types of crafts and integrate it with design. Right now, I feel graduate school would open up a variety of different paths for me. I don’t have much background in furniture or lighting, and am self-teaching myself to weave. So the resources of a school would really help me. I think.

Though I may not have a specific focus now, I hope to have a better feel for what I want to do after going through Grad School.

Have you considered looking further afield? The Design Products course at the Royal College of Art in London might be right up your alley.

It is a bit more conceptual but from what I’ve heard might have the right amount of ‘craft’ and material exploration you are looking for. I’m not sure about them having ‘classes’ per say where you can learn skills such as ceramics but I am sure you could take a class and apply it to your projects…

I’ve known a few people that have gone from designing consumer products, taking that course and setting up their own furniture studios. I’ve also known the opposite where graduates of the course go in to hardcore consumer products.

Anyway, worth a look and it might work out cheaper than a US college too…plus you’ll be in Europe for two years which would be an experience in itself.

I think it is always important to begin with the end in mind when embarking on a decision, especially one as costly as this. It is hard to score if you don’t know where the goal is… otherwise life will feel like a game of Marco Polo.

Once you know where you want to be, what you want to do, you can start the evaluation process. A few questions I would ask myself:

  1. what are the different ways to achieve this goal? If you want to be a furniture maker, one way would be to go to grad school, another way would be to just start making furniture.

  2. what are the costs associated with each solution? Obviously grad school has tuition, add to that the opportunity cost of not getting your salary.

  3. what are the benefits of each solution. With grad school you would get instruction of course, but also you would be effectively renting their shop, and you would be networking with your classmates.

Personally I wouldn’t feel that the benefits outweigh the costs. You could take a year off and make stuff while networking and building your own shop and probably get their on your own for a lot less in my opinion. Or do all of that on the weekends while keeping your job. Of course that assumes a high level of self motivation and direction which you will have to self assess if you have. If not, the structure of an academic environment might help.

Thank you Yo and Sketchgrad for your feedback.

I have a lot of thinking to do and not very much time to do it! I’ve been rolling these questions and thoughts in my mind a while, and the short of it is…I’ll definitely be getting something out of Grad school no matter what. There’s a sense of certainty in the Grad School route. Although taking a year off is undeniably attractive, I just don’t have enough of the right kind of resources nearby.

Now, this part of this post is branching out from my original question. But I thought it might be good to ask.
I’m currently looking at schools in Europe, as the tuition is much cheaper than that in the US (Minus RCA, which costs about the same).

Does anyone have any direct experience with or heard anything about the following schools?

On my list now, are :
Central St. Martens

Thank you so much!

I’m familiar with Central Saint Martins as I am a alum of their BA. The MA seemed interesting and their degree show always had fascinating work displayed.

However, I always got the impression people would rather be at the RCA…If you send me a PM I can rustle up a few names that used to roam the corridors when I was there. If you search for them on Linkedin they might give you an insight in to the course.

People want the RCA, mainly because of the cache as it is still considered, because of its historic record of big names and links and location, to be the place to go. You could go anywhere and really flourish, but when it comes to opening doors, the RCA is still the big knocker! That said, Central Saint Martins is also very well respected. I’m not sure on the entry criteria for Central, but know the RCA has a pretty tough entry with portfolio review and interview. I think that ship has sailed for this year as you need to apply early.

I’m sure judging by the date of your original post that you have already reached your decision, but for anyone reading this with the same quandary, there is another option. If you are not interested in the qualification or didn’t manage to get on a course, you can still go travelling and visit lots of places where you can get experience. I went travelling to New Zealand several years ago and did WWOOFing, which stands for willing workers on organic farms. Despite the title, what happened was that I signed up and was given a book of 800 places to stay in NZ where I could work. You don’t get paid, but you get your food and board for free. If you work the morning you get the afternoon off or work a whole day and you get the next day off, what ever you negotiate. You have to be under 30 years of age. The reason I mention this is that I travelled all round NZ for very little money and only stayed on a farm once. I lived and helped a basket weaver, stayed with someone and learnt to carve bone jewellery, met plenty of artists who had access to pottery wheels, I made furniture, built a turf roof. I could have gone on a 2 day workshop to forge a carving knife but didn’t. There were plenty of options, which may be food for thought. Just about every country does WWOOFing, so the world is your oyster.