Best Industrial Design Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Industrial design is a growing field focused on developing and designing manufactured products, including everything from cell phones and appliances to furniture and cars. Industrial designers combine form and function to create the products we use every day. They consider the usability, aesthetics, ergonomics, branding, and manufacturing requirements for a product.

Getting a degree in industrial design prepares students for a creative career shaping the products of the future. Here are 10 of the top industrial design schools.

ArtCenter College of Design (Pasadena, CA)

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Avg SAT Score: 1350

Tuition: $46,816/year

Avg Salary: $75,000

Website: https://www.artcenter.edu

ArtCenter College of Design is one of the top industrial design schools in the U.S. The school focuses solely on art and design, offering rigorous bachelor’s and master’s programs in industrial design. Students have access to state-of-the-art workshops, labs, and production facilities to bring their designs to life. The faculty includes working professionals and award-winning designers.

Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY)

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition: $53,830/year

Avg Salary: $71,000

Website: https://www.pratt.edu/

The industrial design program at Pratt Institute takes place within the School of Design. Students work in dedicated production facilities learning manual techniques and digital technologies. They complete client-based projects, collborate across disciplines, and showcase their work in exhibitions. Alumni have gone on to work at major companies including Nike, Apple, BMW, and more.

Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Avg SAT Score: 1390

Tuition: $52,950/year

Avg Salary: $69,000

Website: https://www.risd.edu/

RISD’s industrial design department emphasizes working in wood, metal, plastic, and other materials to solve problems and improve lives through manufacturing. Students have access to woodworking equipment, 3D printers, laser cutters, machine shops, and more. The program focuses on sustainability and universal design principles.

Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Avg SAT Score: 1440

Tuition: $59,450/year

Avg Salary: $83,600

Website: https://www.cmu.edu/index.html

Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design works at the intersection of technology and creativity. The industrial design faculty have backgrounds ranging from human-computer interaction to robotics. Students take foundational courses focused on form, color, drawing, and 3D design. They then specialize in product design or interaction design. Past student projects include autonomous delivery robots, smart gym equipment, and orbiter cafes in space.

Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT Score: 1480

Tuition: $12,682/year (in-state), $33,014/year (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $77,900

Website: https://www.gatech.edu

Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Design takes an interdisciplinary approach, with students taking courses in design, engineering, and business. The curriculum focuses on human-centered design practices and sustainability. Students have access to maker spaces, materials labs, and prototyping equipment. Many students participate in co-ops and internships getting real-world experience.

University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 73%

Avg SAT Score: 1220

Tuition: $11,000/year (in-state), $21,000/year (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $65,500

Website: https://daap.uc.edu/

Part of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), the School of Design offers both a BS and MDes in Industrial Design. The program has an integrated approach teaching design process, research methods, engineering essentials, and business practices. Students work in studio teams and have access to woodshops, 3D printers, laser cutters, and other prototyping tools.

Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA)

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 80%

Avg SAT Score: 1170

Tuition: $7,812/year (in-state), $21,932/year (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $61,300

Website: https://www.wwu.edu/

Located near Seattle, Western Washington has strong ties to manufacturing and technology companies, providing students with robust internship and job opportunities. The industrial design program offers emphases in design planning, design materials and processes, manufacturing production management, industrial design graphics, and more. Students exhibit final senior portfolio projects each spring at Western’s annual IDEA Festival.

Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 70%

Avg SAT Score: 1250

Tuition: $14,075/year (in-state), $32,852/year (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $64,500

Website: https://vt.edu/

At Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design, industrial design students learn through an integrated art and engineering approach. The curriculum emphasizes designing for sustainability and global manufacturing. Students have access to wood, metal, ceramics, plastics shops, and digital design labs. Required internships provide practical experience.

San Jose State University (San Jose, CA)

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 55%

Avg SAT Score: 1135

Tuition: $7,852 /year (in-state), $19,932/year (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $65,000

Website: https://www.sjsu.edu/

San Jose State has the first industrial design program in the California State University System. Located in Silicon Valley, the program focuses on interaction design, product design and development through an integrated digital curriculum. Students take courses in design methods, manufacturing, materials and finishes, professional practices, and complete sponsored projects from industry partners.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is industrial design?

Industrial design is the professional practice of designing products for manufacture. Industrial designers focus on the physical form, functionality, usability, and aesthetics of mass-produced consumer products like electronics, furniture, appliances, and more.

What does an industrial designer do?

Industrial designers develop ideas and concepts for manufactured products. They create sketches, computer models, physical prototypes, and specifications for how products will be designed and built. Industrial designers focus on optimizing products for user needs, design aesthetics, manufacturing requirements, sustainability, branding, and commercial success.

What skills are required to be an industrial designer?

Important skills for industrial designers include creativity and visualization to generate design concepts; technical drawing and 3D modeling expertise to create detailed product plans; understanding of materials and manufacturing processes; and concern for human needs including physical, perceptual, and emotional interactions with products. Strong communication and collaboration abilities are also critical.

What major should I choose to become an industrial designer?

Most industrial design jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, product design, or a related field like manufacturing engineering or interaction design. Many programs blend studio art, design foundations, and engineering classes with a focus on prototyping product ideas.

What courses can I expect take as an industrial design major?

Common industrial design courses include design methods, design history, sketching and visualization, computer-aided design (CAD), materials and manufacturing processes, ergonomics and human factors, consumer behavior, intellectual property, professional practices, and specialized electives like sustainable design or furniture design. Expect lots of hands-on studio time.

Do I need to go to design school to become an industrial designer?

A 4-year industrial design degree is the typical path into the profession. However, some working industrial designers studied related fields like engineering, architecture, or product development.Talented designers from other backgrounds may be able to transition into entry-level industrial design roles with strong portfolios demonstrating relevant skills.

What jobs can I get with an industrial design degree?

Industrial design graduates are qualified for roles like industrial designer, product designer, CAD designer, design engineer, UI/UX designer, exhibit designer, toy designer, furniture designer, production designer, packaging designer, transportation designer, and design model maker.

Do industrial designers make good money?

The average salary for an industrial designer in the U.S. is around $72,000. Top designers at large companies or in management roles can make $100,000 to $120,000 per year. Location, education level, specific industry, and years of experience impact salaries significantly.

Can I work from home as an industrial designer?

Most industrial designers work onsite collaborating face-to-face with cross-functional teams including engineering, marketing, manufacturing, and leadership groups. However, remote work is possible depending on the company and where a project is at in the design cycle. Many designers work remotely at times.

How competitive is it getting into top design schools?

Leading design schools like ArtCenter College of Design, Pratt Institute, and Rhode Island School of Design are very selective with acceptance rates under 40%. Applicants need to demonstrate creative talent and potential through portfolios, test scores, interviews, and essays. Plan to apply to multiple schools.

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