Rochester Institute of Technology

Academic Program Overviews

Student Skills & Capabilities, Salary Data, Career Information 

Industrial Design BFA

Program Overview

The Industrial Design program, offered through RIT’s School of Design, teaches graduates to understand the complex relationships that exist among manufacturers, products, and people.  Aesthetic sensitivity, technical competence, social and environmental awareness, and analytical thought are developed and applied to meet the challenge of designing products, packaging and systems for human needs.  Through hands-on experience in graphic visualization, technical drawing, model making and prototype development, graduates emerge with the skills needed to conceptualize, design, and develop new and improved products for mass production.  Through collaborative projects with industry sponsors, students work on actual product designs and develop skills in specialized areas including electronic product design, toy and game design, furniture design, exhibit and display design, and package design.

Degrees Awarded

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design
  • Master of Fine Arts in Industrial Design


  • Approximately 230 students are enrolled in the Industrial Design program; approximately 40 students enrolled in the MS program.

Cooperative Education & Experiential Education Component

  • Students are eligible to participate in an optional co-op program upon completion of 2nd year courses. Participation is strongly encouraged.

Salary Information

Co-op:    $16.39                     $8.00 - $25.00
BFA:        $41,000
MFA:       ID

Student Skills & Capabilities

·         User-centered approach in identifying relevant user needs and defining design opportunities.
·         Effective use of form color, graphics, and materials in the development of product aesthetics.
·         Conceptual sketching, mixed media rendering, computer-aided design, and soft and hard model making.
·         Technical and theoretical understanding of materials and processes as they relate to manufacturing. 
·         Computer skills including experience with software applications such as Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash,   InDesign), SolidWorks, Rhinoceros and AutoDesk Fusion 360.
·         Effective application of human factors, emphasizing safety, efficiency, and comfort.
·         Team problem solving and presentation techniques.


National Association of Schools of Art & Design.

Equipment & Facilities

Computer labs offer students hands-on design experience using Macintosh and Windows platforms.  Software includes Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash, InDesign), SolidWorks, Rhinoceros and AutoDesk Fusion 360.
Design courses are conducted in large studio spaces adjacent to a well-equipped model making shop. Students have access to a variety of maker-space facilities within the College of Art and Design that include 3D printing, stereo lithography, CNC and laser cutting.

Nature of Work

Commercial and industrial designers combine the fields of art, business, and engineering to design the products used every day by businesses and consumers. Designers are responsible for the style, function, quality, and safety of most manufactured goods. Usually designers will specialize in one particular product category. Some specialties include automobiles, transportation vehicles, appliances, technology goods, medical equipment, furniture, toys, tools and construction equipment, and housewares.
The first steps in developing a new design, or altering an existing one, are to determine the client requirements, the ultimate intended function, and its appeal to customers or users. Designers often begin by researching the product user or the context in which the product will be used, and desired product characteristics, such as size, shape, weight, color, materials used, cost, ease of use, fit, and safety.
Designers prepare conceptual sketches—by hand or with the aid of a computer—to illustrate the vision for the design. After conducting research and consulting with a creative director or members of the product development team, designers then create detailed sketches or renderings. Many designers use computer-aided design (CAD) tools to create and better visualize the final product. Computer models allow ease and flexibility in exploring a greater number of design alternatives, thus reducing design costs and cutting the time it takes to deliver a product to market. Industrial designers who work for manufacturing firms also use computer-aided industrial design (CAID) tools to create designs and machine-readable instructions that communicate with automated production tools. Often, designers will create physical models out of clay, wood, and other materials to help clients visualize the finished product.
Designers work with engineers, accountants, and cost estimators to determine if the product could be made safer, easier to assemble or use, or cheaper to manufacture and also may participate in usability and safety tests with prototypes before it goes to manufacturing.

Training / Qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is required for most entry-level commercial and industrial design positions. Many candidates in industrial design also pursue a master’s degree in order to increase their employment opportunities. Creativity and technical knowledge are crucial in this occupation. People in this field also must have a strong sense of the esthetic—an eye for color and detail and a sense of balance and proportion. Designers must understand the technical aspects of how the product functions. Despite the advancement of computer-aided design, sketching ability remains an important advantage. A good portfolio—a collection of examples of a person’s best work—often is the deciding factor in getting a job. Designers must also be creative, imaginative, and persistent and must be able to communicate their ideas in writing, visually, and verbally. Employers will seek designers with project management skills and knowledge of accounting, marketing, quality assurance, purchasing, and strategic planning. Good business sense and sales ability also are important, especially for those who freelance or run their own business.
Beginning commercial and industrial designers usually receive on-the-job training and normally need 1 to 3 years of training before they can advance to higher level positions.

Job Outlook

Employment of commercial and industrial designers is expected to grow about 4% (slower than average) for all occupations through 2022. Employment growth will arise from an expanding economy and from an increase in consumer and business demand for new or upgraded products. However, competition for jobs will be keen because many talented individuals are attracted to the design field. The best job opportunities will be in specialized design firms which are used by manufacturers to design products or parts of products. Designers with strong backgrounds in engineering and computer-aided design, as well as extensive business expertise, may have the best prospects.

Increasing demand for commercial and industrial designers will stem from the continued emphasis on the quality and safety of products, the increasing demand for new products that are easy and comfortable to use, and the development of high-technology products in consumer electronics, medicine, transportation, and other fields. However, employment can be affected by fluctuations in the economy. Increasingly, manufacturers have been outsourcing design work to design services firms in order to cut costs and to find the most qualified design talent. Additionally, some companies use design firms located overseas, especially for design of high-technology products. (Source: O.O.H.’13-‘14)

Job Titles

Industrial Designer, Product Designer


Commercial and industrial designers held about 40,800 jobs in 2010. About 30 percent of designers were employed by manufacturing firms, 9 percent worked in architectural, engineering and related services and another 8 percent worked for specialized design services firms. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics O.O.H.)

Significant Points

  • Commercial and industrial designers usually work closely with engineers, materials scientists, marketing and corporate strategy staff, cost estimators, and accountants.
  • According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, approximately 40 percent of inventors named on design patents were also named on utility patents. In contrast, among all inventors named on utility patents, only 2 percent were named on design patents.
  • Since its launch in 2009, 11,393 design projects have been launched on Kickstarter, with 69 requests raising $1M or more. (Source: retrieved June 3, 2018)
  • Of the approximately 40,000 industrial designers practicing in the United States, thirty percent (30%), or approximately 12,000 industrial designers, are self-employed. (Source: Valuing the Art of Industrial Design, Nat'l Endowment for the Arts, Aug '13
  • Keen competition is expected for most jobs because many qualified individuals are attracted to careers in this field.
  • Continued growth is projected for overall employment of industrial designers, though the growth rate (+10.5 percent from 2010 to 2020) is somewhat lower than for all occupations as a whole (+14.3 percent).
  • Those with strong backgrounds in engineering and computer-aided design, as well as extensive business expertise, will have the best prospects. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics O.O.H.) Data retrieved June 3, 2018

Selected Employer Hiring Partners

Adidas, Allegion, Autodesk, BDI, Bergeron Healthcare, Burton Snowboards, California Closets, Cannondale Bicycle, Carestream, Cascade Sports, Core Home, Crayola, Crosstree, Fisher-Price, General Electric, Gunlocke, Hamilton Beach Brands, Hasbro, Herman Miller Inc., Johnson & Johnson, ittlebits, KEK Associates, Leap Frog, Loll Designs, Marchon Eyewear, MASH Studios, Melissa & Doug, Menasha Packaging, Michael Graves Design, Motorola, Munchkin, Inc., New Balance, Nike, P & G, Pepsi, Poppin, Product Logic, Quirky, Radius, RES Exhibit Services, Rubbermaid, Smart Design, Sony, Spark Design, Staach, Staples, Steelcase Inc, Strong Arm Technologies, Sun Products, Teague, Techtronic Industries North America (TTi), Teroforma, The Timberland Company, Think Design, LLC, TimBar, Under Armour, Vans, Vere Sandal, Wendell Castle Studio, Whirlpool.

Contact Us

We appreciate your interest in your career and we will make every effort to help you succeed. Feel free to contact Shauna Newcomb, the career services coordinator who works with the Industrial Design program. You can access information about services through our web site at

Shauna Newcomb, Career Services Coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 585.475.5472
Rochester Institute of Technology . Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education
Bausch & Lomb Center
57 Lomb Memorial Drive . Rochester NY  14623-5603