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Industrial Design

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The vision of the Department of Industrial Design is to empower the next generation of designers to identify and solve small to large scale problems in order to devise systemic, forward-thinking solutions, mindful of societal needs and ecological repercussions, fostering health and well-being for people and the environment.

We do this by providing students with the necessary tools and experiences, spanning across the product development timeline from the front-end of problem finding through design research and synthesis, to discovery of meaningful design solutions that can range from products to services and systems. The industrial design program offers opportunities to collaborate with diverse disciplines on campus and beyond to tackle a wide variety of local and global design challenges.

Degree offerings include the Bachelor of Industrial Design (B.I.D.) and the Master of Industrial Design (M.I.D.).

Undergraduate Program Structure

Students in this program take a carefully defined sequence of courses developed to give them exposure and practice in the areas of theory and skill required by industrial design. These include design sketching and visualization, form development, history, creative thinking, engineering principles, research, design methodology, human factors, computer-aided design, manufacturing techniques, commercial factors, management, strategic design development, service design, and user experience design. In their third year, students select electives within and outside of the department, defining current issues in the profession. The upper-level studio classes are reserved for study abroad programs connecting students to the global design community, internships, and industry-sponsored projects with students from other departments and colleges. The curriculum aims to develop the ability to cope with diverse problem areas in industrial design, without restricting them to specific fields in design.

An industrial design degree from Iowa State prepares students for creative careers in private and corporate practice, with design consulting companies, in-house design departments, and product manufacturers.

Career choices with an industrial design degree include (but are not limited to):
Product designer, design researcher, automotive designer, footwear & accessory designer, construction & agricultural equipment designer, furniture & lighting designer, interaction designer, service designer, exhibit designer, packaging designer, advertising & experience designer, UX designer and researcher.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the industrial design program students will be able to:

  1. Analyze and address critically the needs of ALL stakeholders involved in the design process and avoid biases, through emphasizing critical thinking, empathy, compassion, and reflective practices. (DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION)
  2. Navigate and apply varying design methods and techniques commonly used to identify and solve small to large scale problems creatively and methodically. (CREATIVE DESIGN PROCESS)
  3. Develop comprehensive products, services and systems solutions through situation and circumstance appropriate touchpoints and platforms. (PRODUCTS, SERVICES & SYSTEMS)
  4. Understand and evaluate ethical, societal, environmental, and cultural short and long-term consequences of design solutions for all people and the planet. (SUSTAINABILITY & ETHICAL DESIGN - aka the designers’ dilemma of unintended consequences)
  5. Communicate professionally and effectively with all stakeholders of the design process from peers and co-workers to clients and end users in both forms verbally and visually. (COLLABORATION, COMMUNICATION & PROFESSIONALISM)

Degree Requirements

The curriculum in Industrial Design leads to a 133-credit undergraduate Bachelor of Industrial Design including the first year Core Design Program.

Admission into the professional program depends upon available departmental resources. Updated information on admission criteria is announced yearly on the College of Design website.

Transfer students with studio credits from other programs, colleges, and universities must present a portfolio of work done in those courses, for departmental review, in order to have the credits apply toward studio. Students are required to present this portfolio upon admission and prior to registration for classes. Arrangements for this process must be made with department advisors.

A 60-credit post-professional graduate program is also offered leading to the terminal degree Master of Industrial Design.  

Total Degree Requirements:  133 credits

Only 65 credits from a two-year institution may apply, which may include up to 16 technical credits; 9 P-NP credits of free electives; 2.00 minimum GPA.

International Perspective:  3 credits

U.S. Diversity:  3 credits

Communications:  10 credits

ENGL 1500Critical Thinking and Communication (*)3
ENGL 2500Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Composition (*)3
LIB 1600Introduction to College Level Research1
One of the following:3
Introduction to Communication Studies
Interpersonal Communication
Fundamentals of Public Speaking
Acting Foundations
Total Credits10

 * With a C or better

Humanities:  6 credits

6 credits from program curriculum sheet

Social Sciences:  6 credits

6 credits from program curriculum sheet

Math/Physics/Biol.Sciences:  6 credits

6 credits from program curriculum sheet

General Education Courses:  9 credits

6 credits of course level 3000-4000 from program curriculum sheet: complete 3 credits from department curriculum sheet.

College of Design Core:  13 credits
DSNS 1020Design Studio I4
DSNS 1150Design Collaborative Seminar1
or DSNS 1100 Design Exchange Seminar I
DSNS 1310Drawing I4
DSNS 1320Digital Design Literacy1
DSNS 1830Design in Context3
Total Credits13

History, Theory and Criticism:  15 credits

INDD 2100Fundamentals of Industrial Design3
INDD 2800History of Industrial Design3
INDD 3800History and Culture of Objects3
Two courses from the approved course list; must include one 3000 level or higher.6
Total Credits15

Industrial Design:  60 credits

INDD 2010Industrial Design Studio I6
INDD 2020Industrial Design Studio II6
INDD 2200Concepts of Sketching and Making I3
INDD 2500Activity-Centered Industrial Design3
INDD 2600Design Engineering: From Thought to Thing3
INDD 3010Industrial Design Studio III6
INDD 3200Design Research Methods3
INDD 3300Creative Thinking in Design3
INDD 3400Digital Design Technologies3
INDD 3600Materials and Processes for Industrial Design3
INDD 3700STEM literacy: How Things Work3
INDD 4400Portfolio and Professional Practice3
INDD 4990Senior Project6
Total Credits51
Experiential Learning: 6 credits6
Industrial Design Studio IV
Industrial Design Internship
Industrial Design Studio V: Commercial Practices
Industrial Design Studio: Design for Social Impact
Study Abroad Option
Industrial Design Practicum
Special Topics
Special Projects
Experiential Learning Special Projects
Study Abroad Option
Total Credits60

Electives:  11 credits

Electives should be assembled to support a focused area of study.

Suggested Departmental Electives:

INDD 2400Digital Tools For Industrial Design3
INDD 3500Applied Human Factors Lab1
INDD 4350Strategic Design: Project Management3
INDD 4600Product Realization3
INDD 5200Design Theory Methodology3
INDD 5300Design Thinking3
INDD 5400Design Communication3
INDD 5500Human Factors: User Experience Design3
INDD 5600Change by Design: Disruptive Innovation3
INDD 5700Systems Thinking in Design3
INDD 5800Material Culture and Values3

Industrial Design, B.I.D.

First Year
DSNS 1020 or 13104DSNS 1020 or 13104 
DSNS 1830 (or General Education)3DSNS 1830 (or General Education)3 
ENGL 1500 (or General Education)3DSNS 13201 
DSNS 1100 or 11501ENGL 1500 (or General Education)3 
General Education3General Education3 
General Education3General Education3 
 LIB 16001 
 17 18
Second Year
INDD 20106INDD 20206 
INDD 21003INDD 25003 
INDD 22003INDD 26003 
INDD 28003Departmental elective3 
 15 15
Third Year
INDD 30106Experiential Learning6Study Abroad6
INDD 32003INDD 33003Elective3
INDD 34003INDD 37003 
INDD 36003INDD 38003 
 15 15 9
Fourth Year
Experiential Learning3-6INDD 49906 
INDD 44003Departmental Elective3 
Departmental elective3Departmental Elective2-3 
Gen Ed or Elective3Gen Ed or Elective3 
 12-15 14-15

Graduate Program

Master of Industrial Design | MID
60 credit study | distributed across two consecutive years

What will (Industrial) Design look like in the future? Where is the field going? What new methods and methodologies will be needed to tackle current and emergent global issues? What will it mean to be human in the age of Artificial Intelligence? How will design disciplines answer to these new futures, new typologies of users, and constantly evolving technologies, and increasing environmental challenges?

These are just some of the questions we are concerned with in the MID program. Designing successfully during these times of uncertainty will require open minded designers, who, as connectors, are flexible, critical, empathetic and creative risk takers. Designers who are capable of working and collaborating in different contexts, under ever changing circumstances, across domains and most importantly in different roles. 

Description of the degree 

The Master of Industrial Design (MID) program at the College of Design, Iowa State University, emphasizes a creative problem-solving based curriculum rooted in design thinking methodologies, that allows students to explore their interests in the broad and expanding field.

Industrial Design is a human-centered discipline that questions existing boundaries and makes connections among diverse domains. Therefore, the program challenges students to develop the ability to recognize and define problems in new ways, and then find opportunities others might have missed or undervalued. Through a strategic and creative problem-solving process, Industrial Design tries to reimagine how we should go about developing innovative, sustainable and durable solutions for people and society at large that genuinely lead to better quality of life and better futures. The MID program actively connects with other knowledge domains and disciplines, to research how things are with the drive to propose how they ought to be. This is achieved through the challenging balance between critical and creative ways of thinking [and working] when devising novel, useful and meaningful artifacts, services, experiences, and environments. Ultimately, the program integrates the design triad of people, business, and technology, in innovative ways, and is based on insightful research to create new value and competitive advantage in a variety of societal, economic, and environmental contexts.

Details about the degree

The MID program is centralized on the creation and application of new knowledge through in-depth investigations of existing ‘gaps’ culminating in a graduation project, which includes a creative component (project based) or a written thesis (research focused). At the same time, students expand their design practice skills using different methodologies, collaboratively, throughout the entire design process. They explore, generate, transfer, and implement interdisciplinary insights into foundational knowledge for the discipline of Industrial Design.

The MID is accredited and recognized as a terminal degree in Industrial Design. This graduate program is designed to offer significant mix of skills and experiences, including students from different disciplinary backgrounds, faculty-directed research programs, internships, international study abroad, industry-sponsored coursework, and also teaching experience.

The MID program is positioned in one of the most comprehensive design colleges in the country, facilitating the integration of methodologies and skill sets from multiple disciplines. Additionally, the program has established curricular connections to the nationally ranked College of Engineering and its Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program, the Ivy College of Business, as well as to numerous industry collaborators and practitioners.

Degree requirements includes a completion of a 2-year, 60-credit program, including a required core (45 credits), focused electives (9-12 credits) and experiential learning credits (3-6 electives). The final MID Graduate Project includes one of the following: a) creative component with a design process report (6 credits) or b) research-focused written thesis (6 credits).  Students and their supervisory team work collaboratively on the in-depth graduate project, adding to the body of knowledge of [industrial] design through investigating, exploring and solution finding of a complex [industrial] design problem.

Curriculum Outline

Required Core Courses: 45 cr.
INDD 5010Industrial Design Graduate Studio I6
INDD 5020Industrial Design Graduate Studio II6
INDD 5200Design Theory Methodology3
INDD 5300Design Thinking3
INDD 5400Design Communication3
INDD 5500Human Factors: User Experience Design3
INDD 5700Systems Thinking in Design3
INDD 5800Material Culture and Values3
INDD 5990XCreative Component1-6
INDD 6010Industrial Design Graduate Studio III6
INDD 6990MInD Graduate Thesis6
INDD 6400Advanced Digital Technologies3
Suggested Focused Electives 9-12 cr.
INDD 4350Strategic Design: Project Management3
INDD 4400Portfolio and Professional Practice3
INDD 4600Product Realization3
INDD 5050MInD Lab I3
INDD 5100MInD Lab II3
INDD 5150Graduate Colloquium1
INDD 5600Change by Design: Disruptive Innovation3
INDD 6300Critical Reflections for Thesis Preparation3
Or Experiential Learning:
INDD 5920Special Projects (3-6 credits)1-30
INDD 5930Experiential Learning Special Projects (3-6 credits)1-30
INDD 5950Study Abroad Option6
INDD 5970Internship6
First Year
INDD 50106INDD 5020 or DSNS 54606
INDD 52003INDD 54003
INDD 53003INDD 55003
INDD 57003INDD 58003
Departmental Elective3Departmental Elective3
 18 18
Second Year
INDD 60106INDD 64003
Focused Elective3INDD 5990X or INDD 69906
ISU or College Elective3ISU or College elective3
ISU or College Elective3ISU or College Elective3
 15 15

Admission to the MID program is by application to the department and to the Graduate College. Information about our programs and how to apply can be obtained from the department’s web page at: or send an email directly to the Director of Graduate Studies.