In the School of Design, we believe 21st century product design is about much more than creating an object or system for human consumption.

No product exists in isolation—it’s always part of larger complex social, political, environmental, and economic system. It functions within these systems and can change the status quo through equitable, progressive, and sustainable approaches.

As a student in our Product Design track, you’ll delve deeply into this approach, learning to develop products that play important roles in advancing the state of the world, that enhance the human experience, and that seek to establish balance between the built and natural worlds.

Courses and studio work will prepare you to be a systems-level thinker, to visually communicate ideas, and to design for user experiences. As you engage in iterative, multi-disciplinary and collaborative design processes, you’ll expand your knowledge and skills through human-centered research, observation, modeling, prototyping, evaluation, and productive critiques. You’ll also learn about current production and manufacturing processes and explore new mediums and methods for creating thoughtful and responsible design approaches.

Wayne Chung going over the parts to a computer mouse with a student.

How we work

Instruction in the Product Design track blends theory and practice, enabling you to translate design thinking into sophisticated proposals, models and prototypes. You’ll utilize the traditions of both hand-crafted and industrial-made objects as you apply theory in material ways—refining how to express ideas and design thinking through artifacts. With the requisite 21st century skill set, you’ll also explore materiality, interaction, and technology through the practices of form-construction, design research, and iterative development.

The primary studio curriculum is sequential and cumulative. Each year in the program, you’ll add new concerns and considerations to a growing product design skill set that prepares you to break barriers between the world as it is and the world you envision.

The School of Design provides Product Design track students with access to its 3D prototyping laboratory. You’ll not only learn to use traditional power equipment such as bandsaws, routers, sanders, lathes, and table saws, but you’ll also gain experience with digital tools such as CAD modeling and rendering software; output tools such as laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC milling machines; and specialty equipment for electronics, industrial sewing, and more. 

Our Product Design track is supported by Design Studies courses that introduce themes that will help you expand and aim your practice. Within one of the most technologically advanced and well-rounded universities in the world, you’ll discover unique ways of operating as a designer and engage with engineering, CS/HCI, robotics, business/entrepreneurship, and the humanities in educational and research opportunities that complement your core design training.

Our History

The School of Design is one of the oldest Industrial Design programs in North America, and is considered one of the top international programs for ID education. 

In the 1920s, Carnegie Tech offered Industrial Design classes in collaboration with regional technology and manufacturing partners such as Westinghouse. These classes aimed to provide state-of-the-art instruction for this newly defined discipline, blending technology and production with human experience, lifestyle, and the emerging consumer market. An applied creative practice was formed, one that was distinct from art and engineering but that shared attributes of both. 

In 1934, Carnegie Tech initiated the first degree-granting ID program in the United States and has since contributed to advancing the discipline through scholarly research, industry partnerships, innovative projects, and curriculum development. Today's Product Design program continues the legacy of the Industrial Design program and prepares students to design for physical, digital, and hybrid "phygital" worlds — set against the backdrop of large-scale social and environmental issues.

Our Alumni

Our 4-year program will prepare you to work in many industries, including furniture and architectural fixtures, digital devices, medical and sporting equipment, apparel and soft goods, industrial products, safety devices, mobility and transportation, and household goods and appliances.

Many of our alumni cross disciplinary boundaries once they settle into the profession. Most pursue careers in product development in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Los Angeles, and here in Pittsburgh. Some pursue careers in tech or UX industries.

Our alumni have worked for companies such as Adobe, Amazon, Autodesk, Facebook/Meta, Google, IBM, Instagram, Microsoft, Salesforce, IDEO, Smart Design, Herman Miller, FCA Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, VW/Audi, Nissan, Proctor and Gamble, Tupperware, Salesforce, Instagram, Radio Flyer, OXO Good Grips, Whirlpool, and more. Others have founded their own product design consultancies or launched their own businesses, bringing innovative products such as the Bollinger Motors All-American Electric Truck to market. 

Notable alumni have been associated with the design of the Apple iPhone and iOS interface; Adidas, PUMA, New Balance, and Nike footwear; the Nike Fuel Band; BMW's bobsled for Team USA in the 2014 Olympics; the GoPro camera; Warrior Hockey equipment; the Roku streaming television service, and the Nest thermostat. Many of our alumni stay connected with our program as guest reviewers and informal mentors, aiming to inspire the next generation of designers.

Notable Books