recommend me a backup ID school

hey everyone,


i am an engineering graduate from Canada. i am planning on doing another undergraduate degree, in ID (product) in Fall 2011. i have done extensive research on various programs and i will probably be applying to most of the following:

  1. UC DAAP
  2. CMU
  3. OSU
  4. Art Center
  5. Pratt

i’ll be posting questions about stuff on here for the next few months as i work on my portfolio and such.
my 1st question

it is very important for me to begin an ID program next year, so i need to have a backup school in case i don’t get accepted to any of those programs listed above, or don’t get any financial aid and can’t afford them. can anyone recommend an ID school that has a decent program but is not that difficult to get into? ideally it would also be on the cheaper side (<$30k/year total costs for internationals).

Canadian schools would be the cheapest for me and easier to get into, however i am very skeptical about the ID program quality at schools like Carleton and Humber, so i’m looking mostly at US schools.

I’m sure R will post some great info on the Canadian side,Carlton and Emily Car are the two big ones I believe.

In the US, for some cheaper schools try Cleveland Institute of Art and Columbus College of Art and Design. California College of Art here in SF as well.

I just graduated from Emily Carr at Vancouver BC. I’d do it again through them. It’s ridiculously cheap for Canadian citizens to go there (from my American point of view). They just did a full upgrade in their ID workshop (this summer) and will be moving to a new larger campus (estimated in 5 years). Also they streamlined their ID classes for the better and just introduced minors (ceramics design, wood design, interactive, etc), which I’m jealous.

I’m curious why you are suspicious of Canada schools. Humber is the number 1 design school in Canada and Carelton is number 3. Emily Carr is number 2. With your engineering background I would think either of the two you mentioned would be acceptible. Most US schools, put ID in the Art/Design Dept. I believe only Western Washington puts it in their Engineering Dept.

As reading back on the post, most portfolio/application dates for schools has been long since past (as far back as a January deadline). I know some schools already had their Fall semester registration sign-ups booked already…

I have no idea where you got you numbers, but I’d whole heartedly disagree. Carleton is the top ID school in Canada and likewise has a much stronger reputation internationally and among the industry. I may be biased as I am a Carleton grad, but as am employer who has also looked at the portfolios from all of the above and more, the differences and levels of quality speak for themselves.

Have a look through the portfolios on coroflot from students at all schools and make up your own mind.

That being said, I can only comment in detail on the Carleton program. First of all, I believe it is the only one of those Canadian schools that offers a B.I.D., not a BA of some sort. The school is in the faculty of Engineering and Design, and is very technically focused.

Coming from an engineering background, you will likely fit in very well and also most likely have a lot of the first year courses already done that you could get equivalency for. Standard courses include engineering statics, physics, calculus, algebra, etc.

Studio courses are very project and skill based and many are done in conjunction with a real company (ie. Black and Decker, NCC, RIM, etc.). There is a strong focus on mass production technologies and several courses that cover everything from injection molded to sheet metal production, to rapid prototyping.

I don’t know much about those US schools you mentioned, but if you are in Canada, I think that Carleton could provide you with an education and experience as good as any other, (aside maybe from specialities like trans at Art Center) for a general ID program and you’d save tons of $$$.

Hope this helps,


Emily Carr gives Bachelor of Design (BDes) for ID, not BA

I stand corrected. Thanks.


thanks everyone for your replies so far, they are very helpful

nicanor, don’t worry i am applying for Fall 2011, not January. i’m planning everything way ahead this year…

to reply to shelblac’s question: i am skeptical about the quality of Canadian ID programs for a number of reasons. i feel like the ID market in Canada is much smaller than that of the States, and many of the markets i am very interested in designing products for are virtually non-existent in Canada (e.g. electronics, computers, automotive). in light of this, i think i stand to gain more from US-based instructors who are working (or have worked) in the US ID market, perhaps even in the specific product categories that interest me most.

i also think there are some good (but not top notch) programs in the States, like OSU for example, that are maybe a little less competitive to get into and are not extremely expensive. in Canada i think the ID programs are (relatively) easy to get into and very cheap, but of lower quality. (anyone feel free to correct me as i am only speculating, but my impression is that a program like OSU is at a higher level than Carleton?)

it’s these good but not great programs that exist in the States that i am looking for as backup schools.

Market and education are two separate things. Lots of American and European designers working in Canadian schools (as well as Canadian designers working in US and European schools and market); most (all?) schools require instructors to have real world experience for a college level job. So all of my Canadian instructors have real world experience as well.

I know many good students that took 2 or more years to get into the ID program because of limited space available. Though I also know some that makes me wonder how they got in as well.

I don’t know where you get the information you get from but seems very one-sided information. :confused: My school has a good ID specific workshop with good hours with 6 other workshops we can work in other areas of the campus (metal, ceramics, sculpture, electronics, misc) as well as a few rapid prototyping machines in our disposal (CNC, 3d printers, etc). Cheap? I also know two people that transferred from two different US colleges into here (one was a semester exchange student that ended up staying). We’ve had a bunch of European exchange students that found our program to be too intense for them compared to how they’re used to. Some friends has dropped out, failed, or changed programs because of the difficulty.

In reality, there is no perfect/best ID college out there for everyone, there’s always good things and things that could be better. What’s great for one person can be the worse for someone else. But it’s always what you make it out to be for yourself. This all happens to any school you choose. It’s always greener on the other side of the fence. Are you/they comparing the worse Canadian students to the top American students? It’s always easy to only remember the bad ones, but it’s not a fair assessment because there will always be the worse students in any school. Also by saying (if it is or isn’t) OSU is better than Carlton, it doesn’t make Carlton nor the country it’s in a bad school. The logic is flawed. Like saying Ferrari is better than Porsche, therefore Porsche and other Germany companies are of low quality…

What’s a better way to choose what type of school you want to go is, tell us what you want. Do you want high technical skills (hand modeling, clay, etc), design thinking, research, drawing, 3d CAD, prototype building, fabrication, etc. There’s some schools that focus more on some things than others. But no college can focus on all skills in a 3 or 4 year program because of lack of time.

I’m American BTW, that graduated in Canada.

I found the Canadian design school stats at a site I cannot seem to find again. I was reading about Canadian schools for my son who is now in HS. What strikes me is that there are not more ID programs affiliated with engineering depts. Most are part of arts and design which is why I have paid attention to schools like Carelton and Western Washington University. Not everyone can go to Stanford and major in Product Design which requires a degree in Mechanical engineering.

In terms of price and wanting to be around computers and electronics, go to San Jose State Univ. The OOS tuition is $16k for OOS U.S. students, don’t know about international. SJSU is in the heart of Silicon valley, you can’t be closer to the center of computers than that.

What I would like to know moreso is whether students who are trained in Canada have as strong a footing on getting work in the U.S. or do U.S. companies prefer students who are locally trained?

nicanor, i see what you are saying. i might take a second look at Canadian schools

shelblac, thanks for the info. i have looked at SJSU before, but i should take another look at their program.

what does everyone think of Syracuse and Virginia Tech’s programs? Syracuse has a medium-sized faculty, but VTech’s is very small (only a few profs). i worry that it will be tough to find teachers you can really make a connection with and who can help you with your specific career goals and getting into the types of design that interest you with such a small faculty. what are everyone’s thoughts on this?

I’m in the same situation as you, having graduated with a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from a Canadian university. I’m now looking for an ID education, at an undergrad level. Just an observation about something that hasn’t yet been brought up in this thread: Some have said that a school like Carleton might be a good fit because it is within the department of engineering, and has a technical focus. This may be a plus to you, but I’ve thought of it as a mixed blessing because we’ve already had 4 years of engineering education. Part of the reason I’m looking into ID is because I’d like to change my way of thinking from a rigid technical approach to something more holistic. This might not be the frame of mind that you’re in, and maybe you view the engineering focus at place like Carleton as a good thing because you might be able to knock a year off of your curriculum. I feel that 4 years of B.Sc. with 4 years of a B.A. or B.Des. still maintains enough of an engineering balance.

Good point JohnD has, since you already have a degree in Mech Eng, you may not learn much more in the engineering point of view if you go to an engineering-sided ID program. It would be a good opportunity for you to learn other things that ID has to offer (not everything ID related has engineering integrated into it). I’ve always wanted to learn mechanical engineering, even considering doing a masters in it later on in life. Even though, I still would prefer going to an art-sided ID program. There’s pluses and minuses on an engineer vs art sided ID program.

Both are great programs. I know quite a few SU grads who are all doing quite well. I myself am a VT grad and as far as making a connection, I still stay close in touch with almost all of my ID professors - just saw all of them last week at the IDSA national conference. And if it weren’t for those professors I wouldn’t be at the job I am in today, so I would say their is a lot of good stuff in there. The faculty may be small but they are extremely proactive in the design community and as such VT has a very strong program that continues to improve exponentially. I graduated in 2007, but there are a number of current students and grads on this board who have had plenty of good things to say if you look through some older posts.

JohnD, i’m on the exact same page as you. the whole idea for me is that i want my degrees to complement each other. for me, it doesn’t make much sense to have an Engg degree and then do an Engg-focused ID degree. i have a lot more to learn from the creative/artistic and ID-centric side of design than i do from the more technical/Engg side. i suppose this is one of the reasons Carleton never really appealed to me much. i’ll shoot you a message, maybe we can share info on schools and stuff

also i’m not in that much of a hurry to finish my 2nd degree. for example i have no problem with UC’s 5-year program. if it means a great ID education im willing to be in school for another 4-5 years. in light of this however, it is very important for me to start next year and not delay that by an extra year. thus why i started this thread looking for backup schools.

Cyberdemon, thanks for the info. i have read a bunch of your posts actually since i was very interested in VT when i began looking at the main programs i wanted to try and get into. VT is still on the radar for sure, so i am trying to gather more information on the faculty and quality of the program. similarly for SU, although that one’s really expensive so i dunno.

For the US better than Canada debate: the current 20 finalists for this year’s Dyson Awards, there are 3 US finalists vs 3 Canadian finalists. There were 45 overall entries from US, 19 overall entries from Canada , and 500+ overall entries internationally. Not saying that competitions is the best survey to see country is “better” than another, but still a good indication that at least there is presence being represented at least.