Do you enjoy taking things apart to see how they work? Do you love drawing and making things with your hands? Are you having trouble picking a favorite class because you enjoy nearly every subject? Are you constantly coming up with ideas for improving the way we live? Product design might be right for you! Product Design (or Industrial Design) is about creating the future and solving problems by developing innovative objects and services.
Products are everywhere: The toothbrush you used this morning, the mobile device in your pocket, every application on that mobile device, every tool at the dentist office, your car, your skateboard, your shoes and your granola bar. All of these things were designed. As a product designer you have the power to affect millions of lives across the social, political, economic and cultural spectrum.
Product Design is inherently creative and interdisciplinary. This program is based in industrial design, and students will take core classes related to that field of study, including concept sketching, model making, and computer modeling. However, this is not a traditional industrial design program. To innovate in today’s society, a designer must have a basic understanding of engineering elements, human needs, and the market. This is why our program also requires students to also take classes in engineering, business, and the humanities. This truly is an interdisciplinary major and is perfect for “polymaths” - individuals who excel in both “right brain” and “left brain” activities.
The product design curriculum is hands-on and team-based. Many of the classes are a blend of lecture and studio components in which students immediately apply the teachings, test ideas and develop prototypes using the College of Design fabrication resources. The program is a “community of practice,” meaning former students and industry representatives are actively involved in the classroom working directly with the students on projects. Classes often involve industry collaboration and sponsorship, providing real-world learning opportunities and portfolio building.
In addition to the core coursework for this major, there are many product design electives to choose from to allow students to tailor their major towards entrepreneurship, furniture design, marketing, anthropology, art, human factors and many other disciplines.
Two specific product design courses that are relatively exclusive to the University of Minnesota are “Toy Product Design” and “Design & Food." Aside from the major medical device industry, the Twin Cities is home to many food product companies and toy companies that make these courses particularly compelling to employers.
Whether you’ve built a 3D printer from scratch or never picked up a hammer, prepare to get your hands dirty developing prototypes in our Digital Fabrication Lab, wood and metal shops, and imaging lab.
With more than 300 different study abroad programs in more than 80 countries, the University of Minnesota has a wide variety of opportunities to prepare you to become a global citizen. We strongly encourage our students to consider studying abroad. Exposure to other cultures is a critical component of every designer’s education. You’ll gain perspective, find inspiration, and discover entirely new ways of thinking.
Student Groups and Clubs
Start career networking right away by joining a College of Design or U of M student organization. There are more than 900 different groups to choose from, so you’re sure to find the right fit. Meet and work with student colleagues from majors across the University who share your interest in generating and testing out new ideas. Popular options for product design students include:
The College of Design boasts one of the largest and best-established mentoring programs of any U.S. design school. Students in their junior and senior years can apply to be matched with a mentor working in their field of interest, providing our students with perspective, feedback, and advice.
College to Career
Some graduates go on to work for one of the Twin Cities’ many product design companies or consultancies. Alternatively, some students become entrepreneurs and launch their own start-ups. Whatever their path, product design graduates are innovative leaders who identify society’s needs and create novel solutions.
Twin Cities Product Design: Your U of M Advantage
With the University centered in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, a major metropolis, collaborations between industry and academia are common. The Twin Cities are a design center in the United States and home to major product design companies like Target, 3M, General Mills, and Medtronic. We are a global leader in medical products, food and agriculture products, 3D printing, product marketing, and themed play structures. As real-world experience is critical to a product designer, the major requires all students to complete two separate internships.
The Twin Cities has a consistently high demand for talented, well-educated product designers. This strong design community provides abundant opportunities, such as internship experiences at both small-scale and large firms and ongoing mentoring relationships with alumni and industry, inside and outside the classroom.
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“My favorite aspect about studying product design at the U of M College of Design is being able to incorporate knowledge from different areas of study to create novel and functional designs.”