Top 10 – Best Industrial Design Schools in the United States 2015

Best Industrial Design Schools USA

Industrial design is the application of design concepts to manufactured products utilizing techniques of mass production. The key distinction from simple manufacturing is that the defining of product form occurs in advance of physically fabricating the product. The product is further defined through the use of digital models, sketches, and prototypes. Industrial design products are often manufactured using precise and often automated replication.

The industrial design process follows many stages and methods; it is often conducted by a large team and can have emphasis on aesthetics or efficiency with consideration of materials and costs, production processes, consumer and commercial requirements such as tolerance to failure rates, or aesthetic properties. An industrial designer creates and executes solutions to the problems of ergonomics, form and material qualities as well as considering marketing and brand philosophy, and sales considerations such as product quality vs. cost of manufacture.

Also Read: Top 10 Best Industrial Design Schools in the World

Top 10 Industrial Design Schools in the US

#1. Rhode Island School of Design

Best Industrial Design Schools USA

Located alongside Brown University, the creation of Rhode Island dates back approximately 140 years. RISD was one of the first schools to offer a Bachelor of Fine Art B.F.A. Industrial Design. The industrial design school is known for the rigor of its program, its considerable focus on practical studio coursework, stringent admission requirements and for having a strong academic and private practice network.

The 4 year B.F.A. Industrial Design program begins with a Foundation Year which comprises of core courses in Drawing, Design, Spatial Dynamics and Liberal Arts courses. The Sophomore year introduces more hands on studio based education alongside theory, with courses in Design Principals, Wood, Metal and Solidworks.

In year 3 students spend more time in studios with open electives in Metal or Wood, and courses in Manufacturing Techniques. Final year courses in Designing with Rhino and significant studio and project work. Studio work is designed to be progressively more difficult throughout the program with students gaining increasing awareness of materials and in depth understanding of visual and 3D vocabulary.

An emphasis is put on the traditional concepts in industrial design and future trends in the profession in all stages of student education from developmental drawings, 3D models and working drawings and prototypes incorporating manufacturing considerations.

[RISD Industrial Design @ 2:38]

RISD has well equipped facilities for industrial design including a Woodshop, Modelshop , D Metal / Machine lab, Metalwork shop, and the most advanced computer hardware and software, although all students in industrial design must purchase a laptop up to the specifications of the department. Digital fabrication technologies include laser cutting, CNC milling + lathing, rapid prototyping, vacuum forming and more. Students also have access to facilities from other specializations at RISD.

Example of RISD student work – Brett Newman

 #2. Carnegie Mellon University


Prestigious Carnegie Mellon University, located near downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently celebrated 80 years success in preparing future industrial designers to be on the forefront of shaping culture and society.

CMU Design program: A Refrigerator Concept by Carroll Gantz (1953)
CMU Design program: A Refrigerator Concept by Carroll Gantz (1953)

CMU is a globally recognized research institution and maintains strong technical connections to industry while idealizing a holistic, liberal arts model of education. Furthermore, the school boasts elite business and computer science programs which support the strength of the schools design programs.  Carnegie Mellon provides an extensive choice of interior design degrees.

The CMU School of Design changed its undergraduate degree from Bachelor of Fine Arts B.F.A. to Bachelor of Design B.Des in recognition of the growing importance of the design as distinct from Fine Art.  The undergraduate program gives students the choice of specialized skills in Industrial Design, Communication (Graphic) Design and Design for Environments (physical and digital environments), while also providing all specializations with the core foundation in Design theory and practice.

Coursework at CMU is a balance of theory and practice encompassing both traditional core principals with new, emergent technologies. In Industrial or Product Design, students design products based upon an understanding of differing human needs and develop an understanding of the way products shape behaviours. CMU emphasise product design as part of larger systems; systems thinking is taught in an iterative and collaborative approach that draws knowledge from multiple disciplines.

CME Design program: Prosthetic by Colin Matsco (2006)
CME Design program: Prosthetic by Colin Matsco (2006)

Students are taught approaches such as cradle to cradle, lifecycle analysis and the use of environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques and materials. CMU industrial design school is well equipped with analog and digital prototyping shops with traditional wood and metal materials and digital design labs with CAD software and 3D printers.

CMU boasts an alumni that includes designers associated with the iPhone, Adidas, PUMA and Nike footwear, BMW Team USA Bobsled, Nest thermostat and many others.

The Bachelor of Design B.Des. – Products, Communications, or Environments is provided at undergraduate level while graduates degrees include:  Master of Product Development, Master of Design in Design for Interactions, Master of Arts in Design, Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services.


#3. California College of the Arts

Best Industrial Design Schools USA

The California College of the Arts main base is in the Bay with campuses in San Francisco and Oakland. Also known as CCA, it is considered as one of the best Industrial Design schools in the world and is famous for its experimental and multidisciplinary approach.

The West Coast school has close relations to industry in America’s venture-capitalist mecca, and has regularly graduated Industrial Design ‘rock stars’ whose work draws international recognition. At CCA, students are offered a B.F.A. Industrial Design, a M.F.A. Design, and a M.B.A. Design Strategy.

The undergraduate B.F.A. Industrial Design has a balance of theoretical and practical education with students spending considerable time in design studios and workshops after acquiring the core concepts in design in the first year. The degree also includes liberal arts, humanities and science requirements (science/math at 200 level).

CCA alumni : Roxanne Lo, BFA Industrial Design 1999, partner and industrial designer at Ibis Cycles.
CCA alumni : Roxanne Lo, BFA Industrial Design 1999, partner and industrial designer at Ibis Cycles.

#4. Art Center College of Design, Pasadena

Best Industrial Design Schools USA

Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design is well known for its multi disciplinary philosophy which produces ready to create graduates. Despite the expensive tuition fee, the experience in this West Coast College is worth it according to reviews DSH has received from students. Some would even refer to it as ‘the Harvard of design schools,’ even though the Ivy League is far more stringent in student admission.

Art and design schools aren’t usually included in typical undergraduate rankings however the school has been recognized by a number of leading publications and DesignIntelligence ranks the undergraduate Industrial Design program at #1.

Art Center has also earned its recognition by the United Nations, a heritage reflected in its motto: ‘Influence Change,’ due to its history of humanitarian involvement. The Southern California school provides a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Product Design and three Masters of Science (M.S.) in Industrial Design, Environmental Design, and Transportation Design.

Pen Tao Yu
Pen Tao Yu

Student Peng Tao Yu produced an innovative proposal for an emergency response vehicle which is formed by adding a conversion kits to an ordinary rental truck providing emergency response vehicles in a fraction of the time and cost. The Red Cross is currently putting the idea into action and the Pasadena Art Center and Peng Tao were both awarded the certificate of appreciation from the American Red Cross.

#5. Savannah College of Art and Design ‘SCAD’


Gulfstream ID Workshop SCAD
Gulfstream ID Workshop SCAD

Savannah College of Art and Design ‘SCAD’ has one of the best equipped schools of industrial design in the country as well as a number of nationally and internationally acclaimed teaching staff. 

SCAD offers a Bachelors in Fine Arts, B.F.A. Industrial Design as well as M.A. and M.F.A. Industrial Design.  The undergraduate BFA program at SCAD starts with foundation studies and general education designed to develop critical thinking and communication skills.

Advanced design standards are maintained at this college that is known for having educated celebrated designers such as Kate Aronowitz who designed creative aspects of Facebook. Faculty members are drawn from the ranks of top industrial design professionals, who in total have more than 100 international patents between them and have more than $50 billion in sales from the products they have designed.


#6. Pratt Institute


Students at Pratt will undertake a rigorous and creatively challenging industrial design program, based largely in studio environments in order to promote collaborative learning, conceptualization and fabrication.  The Pratt ID program involves technical rigor, creativity in context, regarding the end purpose of products and the business and human requirements to be considered.  The program ensures graduates can flourish in the dynamic and diverse nature of the industrial design profession.

Students of Pratt’s 4 year Bachelor of Industrial Design – B.I.D. graduate with high competence in transforming their design ideas into 2 and 3D form implementing aesthetics, critical thinking, and analog and digital tools.

Pratt students are taught core knowledge of the design process based on current professional best practice. Students learn individually and in teams to conceptualize, refine, prototype and present, contemporary design thinking in the form of superior products.

Knowledge of materials and methods of manufacture are core to the curriculum with principles of sustainability, ethics, and the global consequences of mass product manufacture.  Graduates will understand needs of end users in regard to interface, ergonomics, social and commercial standpoints.

Being a design school, Pratt is well equipped both in terms of industrial design facilities and broader design resources including two wood shops, metal shop, rapid prototyping lab, photography and computer labs with the latest in hardware and design software.


#7. Cranbrook Academy of Art

Cranbrook Academy of Art

Located in the leafy suburbs of Detroit, Michigan the Cranbrook Academy of Art offers a unique apprenticeship based style of teaching. The attractive point of this school is the replacement of the traditional classes and grades with mentorship and guidance to students in small groups for the duration of their courses.  There is no part-time or off-campus attendance. Industrial Design is taught in the state of the art 3D Design Department.

Cranbrook’s 3D Design Department teaches industrial design that draws on fine design principals. Studio work covers both industrial design and fine design.  The program has an emphasis on objects for the interior such as furniture, lighting, and electronics and is best suited to hands on students who have demonstrated some ability in crafting materials.

Cranbrook has a legacy of teaching design, from Charles Eames (1930’s) to Michael and Katherine McCoy (1980’s) while also leading the development of new design concepts and the use of new materials and technology. Cranbrook is a diverse community of industrial designers, architects, craftspeople and sculptors. The knowledge shared by a community of designers is greater than the sum of its individual sources.

Through a process of questioning, making and discussing, graduates develop a broad critical framework for evaluating design, and the cultural maturity and creativity required to lead in emerging design professions.

The program is free of the formal course structure typical of most art schools and universities. Instead the studio environment is the core of the curriculum with emphasis on developing an individual body of work.  The studio environment allows individuals to work in the spirit of an ongoing experiment, with the focus on rigorous interaction among fellow designers and other Cranbrook students.

Recent alumni include Nina Cho, furniture designer and designer of the ingenious Spout toothbrush holder and soap tray pictured below.

Spout : Nina Cho Designer
Spout : Nina Cho Designer

#8. Ohio State University

Ohio State University

Ohio State University is the only public school on this list and is famous for its award-winning Department of Industrial, Interior, and Visual Communication Design in Industrial Design Field. Students from OSU have been renowned for their high caliber.

To pursue ID, undergrads must enrol as Pre-Design majors in their first year and compete for limited admission to a B.S. in Design program. Furthermore, there is an MFA in Design provided for graduates.

#9. Rochester Institute of Technology

Industrial Design Schools Rochester Institute of Technology

A great school without excessive tuition is found a five hour drive from New York City. As seen in its name, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a good choice for those who are interested in the emerging technologies in industrial design and as part of this the school has considerable 3D printing resources.

RIT is formally recognized for its high quality of internship and co-op programming. A BFA and MFA in Industrial Design are offered by the school.

#10. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Professional-grade facilities, highly engaged professors, and strong support for student exhibitions can be found at the non-profit School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) located in the vibrant urban ‘Loop’ of Chicago. SAIC has produced more Fulbright scholars than any other design schools because of its open curriculum model.

In the United States in the field of Industrial Design, the historic institution, founded in 1866, has the largest school-museum campus.

One thought on “Top 10 – Best Industrial Design Schools in the United States 2015

  1. Ved prabhakar Pimparkar August 14, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Please let me know bachelor degree courses in industrial design usa. At lowest tuition fees & scholarship

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