RISD's MID vs. IIT/ID's MDes vs. Art Center's MID

Greetings. I am seriously considering attending one of these three schools. Aside from admissions interviews, campus visits and talks with students/alumni, figured I’d ask the board for general feedback on these 3 programs.

A little context about my pursuits … I’m an ex-engineer and MBA by academic training and professional experience. I’ve freelanced to date with my artistic skills. I now wish to formalize those skills and expand my breadth in the field of design. As industry is amplifying the importance of design/innovation, I want to position myself for a rewarding career within the heightening convergence of design, innovation, engineering and business.

I realize these schools are very different from each other, but certain nuances of their programs have definitely lured me in one way or another.

Thanks for any advice you have!

I think it is always good to start at the end and work back. What is your ultimate job in ID?

Like you said, each program is very different. Answering that should guide you.

Thanks yo!

My long term goal centers on aligning to a design/innovation leadership career trajectory.

Roles like creative director, innovation director, VP of product creation/design/innovation come to mind. Heading a design consultancy maybe.

In the mid-term, it would be great to find a mid-level design/innovation manager and/or senior contributor role, or work for a design consultancy outfit.

Through it all, I want my career to embody the recipe of design + innovation + strategy through all the roles that I’ll eventually serve. I want equal opportunities to inject my own creative volition, as well as contributing and/or leading a team through user-centric approaches and design methods.

Of my choices, RISD might offer that best balance. IIT is definately skewed to methods … and ACCD is skewed toward creative expression.

Thanks for your feedback and advice!

My advice to you would be, skip the formal schooling and look into actual experience based options. As a Product designer with a Dual Degree in Engineering and Industrial Design, the experience from my actual co-ops and internships molded my talents. Im only assuming, but you are probably close to 30 now and the expectance to penetrate a field such as product design because of schooling may be a bit premature. You are looking for actual experience not schooling to assist you. If these programs you mentioned can provide co-op opportunities i would focus on those more than the actual school curriculum.

I agree, spending weeks refining how to render glass with markers is not in your best interest. Carnagie Mellon and Stanford (as IIT) have one year innovaion/design thinking Masters programs - forget the Art schools.

i wouldn’t recommend this. you cant direct (Creative Director/VP Design), if you can’t do. sure, it takes more than fancy rendering to get to that level in any case, but you’ll have a much better shot with some solid design training and experience.


just my first thought, but if you are an ex-engineer/mba, i would think you have the rational/processes/technology/execution/implementation/production thing covered and may want to go as far to the other side as possible for school (this is both for your own knowledge/skill and for the perceptions/credentials). then seek, make/find that middle ground yourself as you evolve your career.

so here’s how i would think of the choices. if you want to be the ‘user-centered’ innovation guy/girl, then maybe IIT or any other design research emphasis is your direction. if you want to be the ‘creative director’ guy, then art center. (although i’m thinking more of undergrad - not sure how much blue-sky concepting/visual emphasis you’ll get in the masters).

OK, if you want to be a VP of design, what type of designer would a design staff respect enough to promote to this level? I’d want to know the person guiding me knew how to do it himself.

What I meant more specifically is what types of objects do you want to design, and what do you see design as? If you want to design a lot of mass produced products that we see everyday and see design as more creating and sketching, I’d probably go with Art Center. If you want to be involved more with design research, work on more technical products, such as medical devices, maybe IIT. If you see design as more craft oriented, hands on and want to design things like tableware and the like, maybe RISD.

Thanks for the insights everyone! Truly appreciate it.

Thankfully I’ve received many affirmations from many of my professional mentors of the merits of expanding my horizons in this zone. I’m 31, and still have a whole career a head of me to leverage my past achievements while learning new things and broadening my horizons.

I’m pretty locked on the end goal, and am committed to doing what it takes to get there. My current employer has design/innovation as one of its core competencies. I’m testing the waters to see how I might bridge over to those functional groups. Things look encouraging there.

In parallel, school would be a nice option as well. For me, a decision to go to school really would boil down to my desire for that knowledge (satisfy my personal curiosity). Going to school may create an appearance of uncertainty (in terms of how companies might view me thereafter), but I’m confident in the strength of my network, my professional story and the achievements in my background to overcome any obstacles of that nature. Many told me not to go for an MBA as an engineer, but I went to satisfy a personal curiosity for business. It’s worked out well for me because I pursued it with integrity and made the most of the experience (i.e. didn’t treat it purely as a stepping stone; check the box)

I see the recipe of what is required in the future for companies to differentiate themselves (design + innovation + strategy), and feel either the work or school options will only help me play in that zone, and satisfy my personal curiosities and ambitions.

Decisions like these take a lot of faith and prayer I find out, and you can only take it one step at a time and do your best along the way.

Thanks again for the insights, and I’m excited about what the future holds.

I’m thinking product design more than anything (both mass and the emerging one-off opportunities in customization / rapid prototyping). I really like Art Center’s graduate curriculum because the classes seem to emphasize design visualization/conception, digital technologies, design/innovation strategy and opportunities for self directed design research along a particular field of interest.

The more and more I investigate IIT, I see the value in the user-centric methods that it would teach … however, it might feel like B-school all over again (I went to Tepper at Carnegie Mellon).

RISD seemed to strike a balance between the extremes of Art Center and IIT.

Just curious, what made you think RISD was a balance of the 2?

What year did you attend RISD? I’m currently a junior in ID at RISD right now and am going to assume things have changed a fair amount. My first advanced studio was a collaborative with Babson College (same as the MIT studio) where we worked to develop a product with other business/engineer students and my second is a conceptual project for the Microsoft design challenge. Within a year of being here I’ve seen major changes in the sophomore introduction classes to make them more well rounded (solidworks, system design, etc). With the new department head I think things are finally getting back on track :slight_smile:

There’s still the strong emphasis on working with materials however, and a studio here and there for the more craft oriented people. I just wouldn’t toss RISD aside quite yet, I know I couldn’t design flatware if my life depended on it :blush:

I’d love to hire an engineer with an MBA. Your multi-discipliniary education and experience bode well with how I approach achieving solutions. Though many would assert that you don’t really need a design education to go further professionally per se, I do appreciate your drive to learn and and earn a degree in design as well - certainly a huge asset if you’d ever consider teaching some day.

I graduated in '98… 10 years already, but it sounds the same. It is one of the oldest ID programs in the country and it always felt like year 1. Get an internship!

Who is the new department head?