What is Product Design?

Product design sophomore studio workstation with sketches and prototypes on table.

What is Product Design?

Product Design can be understood as a career path within the larger discipline of industrial design. The Product Design program at WMU brings together entrepreneurship, engineering, and fine arts coursework to train future generations of product designers interested in innovating specific products and global systems.

What is industrial design?

According to the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), industrial design strives to elevate both the function and aesthetics of all things made, from automobiles and medical instruments to household appliances and office furniture. Take a look at the IDSA website for more information on the profession. 

Why is the PD+I program being created?

With international companies like WhirlpoolTeknaNewell BrandsStrykerFabri-KalLandscape Forms and Eaton here in our backyard, it only makes sense for WMU to have a program like this. These leading manufacturing and design companies are in constant need of talent to advance their products through creativity and innovation. The world-class programming in our engineering, business, and fine arts areas render WMU uniquely equipped to provide cutting-edge training and produce the type of innovators these companies seek.

What will this program look like for me as a student?

The first year of PD+I will have you focusing largely on developing, if not refining, your aesthetic sensibilities by having you take a foundation sequence in the School of Art. This sequence will lay the groundwork for drawing, history, and ideation skills vital to your success in the profession. We know this because we consulted with top designers at local leading corporations in the field in the process of creating this program. You will also begin both your engineering coursework and your PD+I coursework in this first year. Because of our two-tiered admissions process, once you are accepted into both the program and the university, you have earned the privilege of starting your major courses in your second semester here. Unlike similar programs across the country, there is no waiting until your sophomore year.

The second-year immediately builds on your foundational experiences in engineering and fine arts and elevates expectations by moving you into areas of study such as ergonomics, manufacturing processes and materials, entrepreneurial studies, and hopefully the first internship of your time in the PD+I program during the summer following year two.

Year three continues to bolster your entrepreneurial studies, enhance your understanding of art and design history, and augment your work within areas such as sculpture or painting or metals-jewelry fabrication. The need for product designers with a solid grounding in related art forms has been a consistent request of our corporate partners as we have gone about developing the program.

The final year of the program is structured to prepare you for the transition out of your studies in PD+I and into your first job out of the program.

How do I apply?

To be a part of the PD+I program’s next cohort of students and create the future of design, you must first apply to Western Michigan University and then submit a portfolio and apply directly to PD+I.

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