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Industrial and Product Design

Program Description

Just the Facts

Industrial and Product Design. A program in the applied visual arts that prepares individuals to use artistic techniques to effectively communicate ideas and information to business and consumer audiences via the creation of effective forms, shapes, and packaging for manufactured products. Includes instruction in designing in a wide variety of plastic and digital media, prototype construction, design development and refinement, principles of cost saving, and product structure and performance criteria relevant to aesthetic design parameters.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Related Careers

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Additional Information

Industrial design students learn to design everything from furniture to athletic shoes. They need an eye for what's in fashion, but they also learn to design products that are as functional as they are attractive.

Different design schools offer different approaches to design education. Some schools emphasize form and esthetics (looks), while others focus on product semantics or problem-solving methodologies (the function). The average student will complete a degree program in four years, though there are some three-year programs available.

Schools accredited by the Industrial Designers Society of America and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design will give students a solid foundation.

Studies often begin with a basic curriculum. Courses may cover math, physics, psychology and economics.

Students then study subjects like art, materials of the industry, board and computer-aided drafting, design, manufacturing and model making.

Many schools offer work placements as part of their program. Martien de Leeuw directs an industrial design school. His students are asked to spend at least three months in the industry, studying manufacturing and production processes. Most students find their own internships locally. Some have the opportunity of doing their internship abroad.

Students should be curious about products and people and be creative, critical and observant, says de Leeuw.

"A good design student should be a well-motivated individual with excellent work habits," says Roman Izdebski, coordinator of a college design program.

Industrial design students should also display skills in writing and oral presentation and basic math, says John Schmidt, director of the industrial design department at the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Colorado.

Computer skills are vital. "It takes many people working in a team to create a product -- and the computer allows all team members to work on the same information, and to be updated simultaneously when they share a common database," says de Leeuw. "Computers also allow for virtual testing of aspects of a design."

In high school, take science courses, including math and physics, Izdebski says. Art courses will help a student build their portfolio, including drawing, painting and 3D work.

Any courses that teach computer graphics, drafting and photography also are helpful. An exposure to wood and metal workshops would be an advantage for students too, Izdebski says.

The main costs are tuition and books, although you may need to purchase equipment.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information on this field of study, see: Designers

Directory of art schools worldwide, including industrial design. Also has scholarship information

Core Industrial Design Network
Features a listing of accredited schools in the U.S. and around the world, as well as industry news and job postings

Bad Human Factors Designs
Check out what not to do


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