Industrial Design Master of fine arts degree

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In this industrial design master's degree, you'll explore design theory, design history, and human-centered design as you create a range of dynamic, exciting consumer products.

Form, function, and experience tell a story of considered design and the best possible outcome. The industrial design master's will enhance your career success by further developing your knowledge in design process and technology. This project-based program allows you to explore design theory, design history, and human-centered design. You will conduct unique research on various topics of interest, which will further your understanding of the industry and society. As you conclude your studies, you will obtain hands-on experience on technical competence, analytical thought, sustainability, and transdisciplinary collaboration, all key to fueling your career.

The MFA in industrial design is for career enhancement or redirection. The educational experience is project-oriented, requiring research into design methods and technologies. Cross-disciplinary collaboratives provide an experiential dimension.

The first year of study includes seminar courses in design history and research, which are common to all graduate students in the School of Design. In addition, studio courses involve extensive design work with respect to sustainability, design process, the meaning of artifacts, and critical analysis. Additional course work using three-dimensional software for modeling and fabrication fills out the program.

In the second year students conduct research and develop a thesis project, which is presented in a graduate thesis exhibition or presentation, and is documented in a written thesis report.


  • Design

  • Consumer Packaged Goods

  • Manufacturing

  • Fashion

Typical Job Titles

Industrial Designer Product Designer

Featured Work

Curriculum for Industrial Design MFA

Industrial Design, MFA degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Technology Studio
This course explores the use of computer-aided design (CAD) and other related technologies as tools for designing, modeling, visualizing, simulating and fabricating design solutions. Emphasis is given to the combination of digital and analog technologies, and the workflows for using them effectively in design process.
Design Laboratory I
Design Laboratory I is part one of a studio sequence that provides a forum for discourse and experimentation in design. Critical analysis, contextual relevance and research methodologies are developed and used as a means to define the role of design and the designer in creating consequential solutions for the social, economical and environmental betterment of the global communities. Projects will extend these ideas into the practice of industrial design as a mode of understanding the relationships that exist between the user, the community and the designed artifacts. Opportunities for inter and trans-disciplinary collaborations will broaden the scope of the projects. We will design through a process of iteration and reiteration, empathic exploration, and the development of the physical artifacts. Categories of products may include: consumer goods, equipment, transportation, furniture, or packaging.
Design Laboratory II
This course is the second of a two-course studio sequence that provides a forum for discourse and experimentation in design. Course continues the methodology established in Design Laboratory I, and extends the scope to human-centered concepts, artifacts and systems at both local and global levels. Assignments will include topics such as: responsible design practices, universal design, environmental sensibility, project management and fabrication.
Function of Form
The first of a two-semester sequence, this course emphasizes the experience of seeing, developing, and manipulating three-dimensional forms and compositions. Projects focus on developing the ability to see, organize, and understand the ambiguity inherent in the design process through the study of three-dimension design elements, the analysis of their relationships and the subsequent sensory responses.
Form of Function
The second of a two-semester sequence, this course emphasizes the technical skills necessary to manipulate material and data for the accurate three-dimensional communication of design intent. Projects focus on understanding the relationship of materials, manufacturing processes, products and the user.
2D Ideation and Visualization
The first of a two-semester visualization sequence, this course focuses on developing the skills and methods necessary to generate, visualize and define design concepts in two-dimensions, in both analog and digital formats. Assignments may include orthogonal views, perspective drawings and descriptive illustrations, as means to develop and communicate design solutions.
Integrated Design Visualization
The second of a two-semester visualization sequence, this course further develops analog and digital visualization techniques, while expanding on graphic and three-dimensional components needed to create effective presentations and the workflows to achieve them. Assignments will also include crafting visual and verbal presentations that synthesize the concepts developed.
Design Research and Proposals
This course focuses on developing research skills in the field of design. Emphasis is placed on an exposure to a wide range of methods, research sources, data collection, and evaluation. Students will select and plan a design research topic, conduct a search for background material, construct a proposal, and defend their research topic.
Design History Seminar
This seminar focuses on a basis in the history of design, which complements the overall graduate studies in the School of Design. Interdisciplinary in nature, the course is thematic and emphasizes performance on the part of the student in dynamic dialogue on course topics. The course content focuses on subjects relative to the history and theory of design (people, processes, products, environment, culture and places), critical thinking and contextual historical issues. Students are expected to read seminal design articles, write critical essays and questions and to participate in weekly discussion groups. On-line technology is utilized in addition to slide lectures.
Open Elective
Second Year
ID Design Studio I
This is the first part of a two-course series that provides opportunities for fine-tuning of design process and development of meaningful solutions across multiple scenarios. Projects and assignments will explore the application of design methods and skills. Projects will also address large-community and global problems requiring team-based, trans-disciplinary collaborations.
Graduate ID Studio II
This is the second part of a two-course series that provides opportunities for fine tuning of design process and development of meaningful solutions across multiple scenarios. Projects and assignments will expand on the application of design methods and collaboration. Course content will integrate current and emerging technologies that influence design practice as well as society and culture. A strong focus will be on the testing and implementation of design solutions in effective ways.
Thesis: Research and Planning
The first of a two-course thesis sequence, the focus of this course is on establishing content, planning, scheduling, and research seeking innovative solutions through the process of concept development, ideation, and in-process evaluation. Final articulation of the project is approved by a faculty committee, presented in a graduate thesis show and accompanied by a written document that addresses how the theories and methods used in the project impact the current and future state of design in society.
Thesis: Implementation and Evaluation
The second of a two-course thesis sequence, this course focuses on continued concept development of a thesis, concluding with the implementation and retrospective evaluation of chosen design problem. Solution is presented in a public exhibition, complemented by a written articulation of how the theories and methods employed in the project impact the current and future state of design in society.
Open Electives
Art History Elective*
Total Semester Credit Hours

*Art History Elective refers to any graduate level Art History course in CAD or the College of Liberal Arts.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MFA program in industrial design, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college. 
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Submit a portfolio of work that demonstrates strong design skills, visual sophistication, and aesthetic awareness. (Refer to Graduate Portfolio Requirements for more information.)
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives detailing the professional goals the candidate wishes to achieve, and the attributes the candidate brings to graduate study.  
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 88 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with balance sub-scores) is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.

Learn about admissions, cost, and financial aid 

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