PhD in design/industrial design

Does anyone have a comprehensive list of US schools that offer a PhD in design/industrial desing or related field?


The only PhD program I have ever heard of in the US is at IIT.

ASU as well, but that’s it for industrial design.
The Masters is considered the terminal degree in the design professions.

Thanks for the info. I was unaware that ITT and ASU had PhD design programs. NCSU, Ohio State, and Georgia Tech are others that also offer PhD in Industrial Design. Maybe I should compile my own list :astonished:)


Unless you plan on spending the rest of your life in academia, I have a hard time understanding the value of a PhD in ID in the first place…

Other than getting to walk into a meeting as “Dr. Designer”.

Out of sheer curiosity what’s your motivation for seeking a design PhD?

I saw the New School in NY has a PhD in aesthetics… which would seem likely to end any debate with sales or marketing :wink:

I agree with Cyber, design is not really an academic activity. You learn much more in apprenticeship type situations with good mentors on the job. If you aren’t working with real projects it is all rather fictional and the experience doesn’t translate. Unless you are going to get your PhD to do a lot of witting on design perhaps?

wow, never knew NC State had a Phd.
I can’t find the info for OSU or GA Tech, could you post the links?

I once saw that IIT has graduated 29 Phd’s total, I can’t be sure that’s accurate but given the nature of the profession I wouldn’t be surprised.

I thought about pursuing this option right after I graduated. It was in the 6 months that I couldn’t land a full-time ID position with my shiny new BFA of ID degree, which I had ignorantly thought 100% guaranteed me any ID job that was out there, that all I needed to do was apply. Boy was I wrong. My line of thinking was probably motivated by spite against “them”… “well if I’m not going to get hired with this, then they’ll HAVE to hire me with a PhD of ID”. Also not very smart. I was looking into Umea in Sweden, considering it very seriously. Then I landed a job, and then it all became clear how it all really works. I learned more in that first 3 months than I did in 4 years of ID school. Since then, I’ve read multiple articles and discussions that show you are less likely to be hired with a PhD of ID degree with no experience, versus a recent grad with a BFA. Mainly, the company would be hiring a Doctor, who would demand (or feels they deserve) higher pay, yet lacks any real world experience. In the eyes of HR, they could hire two equally real-world-experienced individuals. One who is eager, young and willing to earn less, or a presumably stuck up Doctor with the same industry experience who will make them bankrupt with their salary requirements. I’m not saying their isn’t an enormous value in the PhD of ID title, as I still think about it on occasion. But earning that title won’t guarantee you a full-time ID position. More or less for teaching, research, writing, philosophy, etc… which all can be achieved through lesser degrees. Best suggestion, earn a BFA, and work your ass off while you do it. Internships don’t hurt, either.

The objective of an advanced degree is not to obtain a singular position. I don’t need an MBA to write ad copy. I don’t need a PhD to sketch. I think that is painfully obvious.

But my BA or BS in ID will not open many doors for research or strategy, for example.

So it seems I have a couple of options.

Get an ID job where they can offer the advanced training in whatever I wish to pursue. Granted you can focus your job search on companies you think may or may not allow that opportunity. But that seems like a crap shoot.

Or get an advanced degree that that specializes in the training I wish to pursue. Obviously there is no guarantee of a job, but you can guarantee I can obtain the advanced training I wish to pursue.

It is a choice. If I want to pursue product positioning strategy, a job may or may not give me that education where an education may or may not get me that job.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, well, realistically I’d have about 30 dollars, but still, enough to say this seems like a pretty universal truth in our profession.

I think the biggest factors in pay for our field are definitely experience and capability, not education level.

The only time I can see a PhD being valuable field is in the academic world…if you wanted to be a department chair at a large university you wouldn’t hurt your resume with explaining your thesis on design education, but beyond that I don’t see an application for it.

I also was considering a Masters>PhD after school. Typically, that route is more for education and research, not for practicing designers. There is a lot of value in that direction and I don’t think it’s a case where it’s lesser than a practicing designer who sketches every day.

A good example is Donald Norman. He’s got a Ph.D and maybe can’t sketch (I dunno) but does a lot of critical thinking and analysis that likely most practicing designers don’t.

John Maeda is another Ph.D.


I already have a BS in Industrial Design and am one class short of my Masters in Industrial Design AND I’ve been working as an Industrial Designer for 25 years so I obviously don’t need a PhD to get a job. I have a deep interest in both design practice and philosophy so that’s why I would want a PhD in industrial design. I would like to research a specific topic in Industrial Design, write a paper with a hypothesis, and defend this hypothesis in a Doctoral Thesis presentation. This published work would theoretically advance the field of industrial design research.

My question wasn’t about the merits of a PhD in Design. My question was: Does anyone have a list of all the US colleges/universities that offer a PhD in design/industrial design? I’m piecing together a list and have discovered only four or five schools offer PhD’s in Design or a related industrial design field.

So, once again: Does anyone have a list of all the US colleges/universities that offer PhD’s in design/industrial design? I would think IDSA would have a list of all the accredited industrial design schools/programs that offer a BA/BS/MFA/MR/MS/and PhD’s, etc. in Industrial Design. Surely, someone must know if one exists?

Thanks for the context. Context is everything and makes all of the advice above completely different.


I appreciate the seriousness of your goal, as philosophy was one of my interests in college as well. A memorable course I took was a 400 level class in the sophomore year of my undergraduate called ‘MetaLogic’ - the professor and the topics were eye opening. I think it solidified my religious beliefs.

If you’re having trouble finding a comprehensive list, it might be worth a call to the admissions office at Cranbrook Academy of Art, they’re widely known for their excellent Masters in Design program but they also might have good knowledge on where their design students might study next after leaving their program.

Another good person with whom you could contact is Robbie Blinkoff of Context They take Ethnography to higher levels and commonly delve into the philosophy of people, places and things - I love Robbie’s blog and email updates.

Another source that might lead you in an interesting direction is HumansInvent

I am wondering about what led to your goal …were your efforts on a past project unfulfilled due to budget, scope, etc? …did you see something design related that sparked a next-step desire? Please do tell!

FUN (you should appreciate this - clearly an oddity of the human mind! …do animals have such musings, I wonder?..)
#1 I cannot lie, Kiss’ Dr. Love has been singing in my head since I first read your post. I will admit that I tried changing the words to Dr. Design in my head (spoken clearly in Paul Stanley’s voice, by the way) but it only works if you extend the Dr. into Doc----tor.
#2 For some reason, Howey Mandell keeps appearing in my mind in his doctor’s smock walking the halls of St. Elsewhere singing Kiss’ Dr. Design - and I swear I think he was wearing one of those old flexible ship’s curves around his neck instead of a stethoscope.