Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Design Anthropology | University of Illinois at Chicago
Stephanie Munson, Assistant Professor of Industrial Design |University of Illinois at Chicago
During the 2005 IDSA National Education Conference, Craig Vogel mentioned that of all the abstracts received for the conference, not one addressed issues related to graduate education within the field. This prompts questions about the current state of, and perhaps lack of attention to, industrial design graduate education in the United States.
During the 2005-06 academic year, the University of Illinois Chicago embarked on a study to help them define an identity for their (the program has been on a 5-year hiatus, with reinstatement in the Fall 2006) graduate program in industrial design. This was part of a larger study that looked to redesign the MFA curriculum for their industrial design, graphic design, and electronic visualization program areas. This paper details the results of this study for (1) the positioning of the industrial design MFA program relative to other American industrial design programs, (2) the personas of future industrial design students the program wants to attract, and (3) the overall structure and vision of the curriculum as it relates to industrial design education.
The necessity of industrial design programs to clarify their identities within and across colleges and universities is not just about superficial branding. It is about shaping the strategic direction of the program in terms of attracting and retaining potential students, faculty, and corporate project sponsors. It is also about identifying trends in the overall perceptions of industrial design education in the United States.