Industrial Design: A Different Art Major

By Carla R. Gonzalez

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

Knowing how to guide your creative student can be difficult, particularly if they show an affinity for both the creative and mechanical (robotics, systems and engineering, new technologies), and have an interest in design trends, cars, clothes, or gadgets. All these interests are relevant to Industrial Design. According to the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) website, “…Industrial Design is the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value, and appearance for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” So while a creative student may be hesitant to choose an art-based college or career, it may be worth researching art and design colleges that have programs in Industrial Design or related fields like Product Design, Transportation Design, Toy Design, or even Fashion Accessories Design and Shoe Design.

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

The career possibilities for graduates of such programs are widely varied and can range from designing home and kitchen appliances to cars and motorcycles, athletic gear, fashion and leather goods, watches, bicycles, furniture, and more. The best design students are often those who want to find ways of improving functionality. They understand the positive impact good design can have on user-perception, functionality, and desirability, and they have an interest in consumer trends and marketing. Industrial designers help develop a brand’s physical identity and build customer loyalty through design and user experience.

national endowment for arts 2013Potential design students need to know that not all design majors need to spend years learning to paint. What they will do is develop their ability to draw and communicate visually and to conduct research to develop innovative designs that meet current and future societal needs and wants. Industrial Design programs teach how to design digitally in 3D, design for an audience, create and print 3D prototypes, connect design to user experience, and work collaboratively with craftspeople, advertisers, and graphic designers. Many programs offer career preparation by integrating corporate-sponsored projects with real-world design problems into the studio classroom. They give students the opportunity to get in front of professional designers, adhere to real deadlines, collaborate, and engage in a healthy dose of friendly competition; all essential to understanding how jobs in the design industry really work. Industrial Design students can be assured that there are jobs out there, and that the demand for better, smarter, and more beautiful design won’t likely diminish any time soon.

College for Creative Studies is one of the top Design Schools in the US based on Alumni Success by LinkedIn. Carla R. Gonzalez is the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at College for Creative Studies. She can be reached at cgonzalez@collegeforcreativestudies.edu.

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College Tour: Art Center College of Design

In early April, I toured the Art Center College of Design in California. Set in a single modernist Ellwood-designed building that spans a ravine in the hills of Pasadena, the aptly named Hillside Campus is a visual study in contrasts. Harsh steel and glass are surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant sweet jasmine.

Art Center walkway 2

Ellwood Building Walkway

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into this selective school, often ranked at the top of many college search lists. The reward for getting in is hard work and readiness for the real world.

As one admissions representative said, “you’ll never work as hard in industry as you do here.” Kit Baron, Senior Vice President of Admissions explained the reasoning behind the schools demanding curriculum and structure, tying it to the college’s core mission. Art Center “was founded not as an atelier but for industry, to listen to what client’s want,” she said. Translation: the school educates and helps students transition into the job world.

An example of the school’s strength is their Transportation Design program, which is constantly ranked #1 internationally. That stellar rating is reflected in the fact that every major automotive manufacturer has had an Art Center alum as a design chief or leader. Think about that; every major automotive manufacturer.

Class time

Beyond transportation, Art Center has 10 other undergraduate programs leading to BFA or BS degrees. Students are guided and challenged by approximately 400 faculty members, most of whom are also working artists. Classes are taught on the semester – or term – system, with three terms per year. A completed degree is based on eight terms, which means that students can graduate in fewer than three years. Most don’t though, typically taking 4–6 years to complete their education. There is no foundation year here, meaning students must be focused when they begin, but they’ll get to spend more time dedicated to their majors.

The smartly and strategically structured Illustration Department is the largest on campus. Five tracks exist within the department, directing students towards entertainment arts, motion, design, fine arts, or surface design. Each has a unique focus, requiring a different set of skills to work in their respective industries.

One of the hottest new majors trending across the country right now is Interaction Design, and Art Center has it. New due to our tech-focused world, it’s the study of apps and interfaces.

model shop projects 2

End-of-year model shop projects

Beyond the Ellwood building and adjacent Sinclair Pavilion for relaxation, there isn’t much else to this campus, reinforcing the focus on creating art. Students live down the hill, in off-campus apartments. A short drive away is South Campus, where Fine Art and Illustration students study, alongside graduate and community programs. The school’s long-range plan includes building dorms there in three years.

Art Center is not for the indecisive or inexperienced. Applicants already have a defined proficiency and a sense of direction. Prospective students apply directly into a major. The college accepts students on a rolling basis with just a few admissions deadlines.

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