Product Design (Major)

Frequently Asked Questions

Product Design is complicated, that's why we love it. Here are few answers to the questions we have received over the years.

Still have questions? Get in touch with the Chair of Product Design.

Why is the program called Product Design and not Industrial Design?

To explain this you’ll need a short history lesson (sorry, it’s what we do).

In the early 1900’s, factory owners (industry) saw that the things they produced needed to compete for the customers' attention on more than function and price; they also competed on aesthetics, ergonomics, and social value. Out of this need to come up with the plans (designs) for compelling new products the discipline of Industrial Design emerged.

As the discipline of Industrial Design matured its practitioners applied their skills beyond industrially manufactured physical products to include services, systems, user experiences, software, and even conceptual designs never intended for production. To communicate this expanded field, designers found that Product Design more accurately reflected the scope of their work. Starting around the late 1990’s some new education programs adopted Product Design to describe their programs, but many programs continued to use the term Industrial Design.

To add more confusion, in the past decade the term product design has increasingly been associated with the work done by UX/UI designers and computer programers who exclusively design non-physical products.

Product Design at MICA is very similar to Industrial Design programs at other institutions.

Can you show me what professional product designers do?

The documentary “Objectified,” directed by Gary Hustwit, is a great introduction to how contemporary product designers are working today.

From the documentary’s website, “Objectified is a feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?”

What are the job prospects for product/industrial designers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median pay is $77,030 a year or $37.03 per hour.

Employment is projected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031 adding 900 jobs.

Ok, I want to study Product Design at MICA. What other course should I take?

One of the strengths of a MICA education is the connection to Humanistic Studies and Art History. There are many great courses in these departments but here is a curated list for Product Design majors.

AH 358 / History of Modern Design with Victoria Pass
AH 475 / The World on Show with Jenny Carson
HMST 335-TH / Research & Engagement Ethics
NSCI 245 / The Science of Sustainability
SSCI 223-IH2 / Intro to Cultural Anthropology with Arpan Roy, Nina Brown, Ruth Toulson
SSCI 305-TH / Human Development
SSCI 437 / Very Bad Things with Ruth Toulson
NSCI 237 / Mathematics as Experience

Product Design students often take elective classes in Ceramics (CE), Interdisciplinary Sculpture (IS), and Graphic Design (GD). Here is a short list of student favorites.

CE 200 / Intro: Hand Built Form
CE 324 / Cast Ceramics
IS 202 / Introduction to Wood
IS 205 / Sculpture Workshop: Moldmaking
IS 367 / Furniture Design
IS 450 / Co-Lab
GD 365 / Package Design
GD 470 / Signs, Exhibits, & Spaces