Product Design in the 21st century is a complex endeavor that operates both within and beyond the consumer paradigm. The Product Design track in the School of Design explores themes of materiality, interaction, and technology through rich practices of form-giving, design research, and iterative development. We aspire for the products we design to play important roles in advancing the state of the world, in enhancing the human experience, and in advocating for a critical balance between the built and natural worlds. Students develop the requisite 21st century skill set, mind set, and motivation to use Product Design practice for positive benefit across a variety of industries, organizations, and contexts (It's not just about making stuff). Our curriculum acknowledges that no product exists in isolation—it is always part of larger complex social, political, environmental, and economic systems. We believe that Product Design today operates within these established systems and works to change the status quo through equitable, progressive, and sustainable approaches.

Our 4-year program prepares students for 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. You'll learn systems-level thinking, how to visually communicate your ideas, designing for user experiences, and engage in an iterative, multi-disciplinary and collaborative design process that involves human-centered research, observation, modeling, prototyping, evaluation and productive critique. We introduce 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

The Product Design Track teaches a blend of theory and practice, translating design thinking into sophisticated proposals, models and prototypes. We leverage the traditions of both hand-crafted and industrial-made objects to engage with theory in the most material way—refining how we express our ideas and design thinking through artifacts. The primary studio sequence is sequential and cumulative - each year in the program adds new concerns and considerations to a growing skill set that equips students with agency to engage with the world - breaking barriers between the world as it is and the world they envision it can become.

To support this, the School of Design has a 3D prototyping laboratory where students learn to use traditional power equipment such as bandsaws, routers, sanders, lathes, and table saws; digital equipment such as CAD modeling and rendering software and output tools such as laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC milling machines; and specialty equipment for electronics, industrial sewing, and more. Further, our Product Design Track is supported by Design Studies courses that introduce themes to expand, situate, and aim your practice. Set within one of the most technologically advanced and well-rounded universities, our students find unique ways of operating as designers within our diverse academic landscape and leverage engineering, CS/HCI, robotics, business/entrepreneurship, with the humanities in educational and research opportunities that complement their 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 connected to regional technology and manufacturing partners such as Westinghouse. These classes aimed to teach the state-of-the-art of this newly defined discipline, blending technology and production with human experience, lifestyle, and the emerging consumer market to form an applied creative practice that was distinct from art and engineering, yet shared attributes of both. In 1934, Carnegie Tech initiated the first degree-granting ID program in the United States and has contributed to advancing the discipline through scholarly research, industry partnerships, innovative projects, and curriculum development. Today's Product Design program extends the legacy of the Industrial Design program and aims to prepare students to design for physical, digital, and hybrid "phygital" worlds — set against the backdrop of large-scale social and environmental issues.

Our Alumni

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

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. Some of our alumni have founded their own product design consultancies or launched their own businesses bringing innovative products to the market — such as the Bollinger Motors All-American Electric Truck. Notable alumni have been associated with the design of the Apple iPhone and iOS interface, Adidas, PUMA, New Balance and Nike footwear, Nike Fuel Band, BMW's bobsled for Team USA in the 2014 Olympics, GoPro Camera, Warrior Hockey equipment, Roku, 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