Find your perfect value college
In the US, we tend to see the sciences and the arts as separate worlds; some people are good at science and math, and some people are good at art, and there is no overlap. Of course, that is a misconception and a very troubling one in many cases. In fact, many of the most important and sophisticated professions in the modern world require skills that combine the liberal arts and the sciences.
Industrial and Product Design is one such area. From iPhones to Teslas, from furniture to kitchen gadgets, design is an essential part of the modern marketplace. Apple’s incredible success in the 21st century has brought product design to the forefront of mainstream culture, but for the most part, industrial design is invisible. Most consumers do not consciously think about the designer(s) involved in making a product, but their work and craft has a major impact on what people buy, how they use products, and what products mean to people and culture at large.
Modern design is highly human-centered, focused on the needs and desires of consumers and users, including ergonomics, ease of use, and attractiveness. For modern design, imagination and creativity must come together with technical acumen; art and engineering work hand in hand to create products that grab attention, prove themselves useful, and even make their users love them.
Industrial Design and Product Design are, by necessity, highly interdisciplinary fields. Design draws on skills from the traditional liberal arts, such as critical thinking and analysis, as well as the fine arts, such as drawing, sculpting, and color theory. Engineering, applied science, and computer science contribute elements such as materials engineering, fabrication, ergonomics, and digital modeling. Industrial Designers also usually need a solid grounding in business concepts such as economics, budgeting, project management, and marketing, while design programs often incorporate even further-flung disciplines such as psychology and anthropology.[Related field — check out our Top 20 Best Packaging Science Programs]
Since Industrial and Product Design are such complex fields, with so many disciplinary influences, degree programs are housed in a variety of institutional settings, including engineering schools, business schools, or fine arts and design schools. There are also a number of degree types that can lead to a career in Industrial or Product design, including the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), or the specialized Bachelor of Design (BDes) and Bachelor of Industrial Design (BID).
With growing demand from Industrial design students for effective Industrial and Product Design programs, Value Colleges has developed a ranking of the best values in the field. The Top 50 Best Value Industrial Design Programs ranking is made up of only regionally accredited, highly reputable colleges and universities in the US (along with two international universities) that have demonstrated their ability to not only prepare students for the basic demands of the career, but provide access to satisfying, rewarding, and potentially lucrative positions.
Ranking the Best Schools for Industrial Design
Value Colleges uses three data points to determine the ranking:
- Reputation: U.S. News & World Report’s overall score
- Salary: College Scorecard Alumni data
- Cost: Non-resident tuition rate
Many Industrial Design programs base their curriculum on the recommendations of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), and many of the best programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). While these are not the only standards of quality, Value Colleges has awarded extra credit in our ranking to NASAD-accredited programs.
1. Brigham Young University
Regularly cited as Utah’s premiere university, and as the largest and one of the most respected private religious institutions in the nation, Brigham Young University is known for academic rigor, student support, and affordability, with LDS students paying one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. While Brigham Young is highly ranked for medicine, law, and business, the Fulton College of Engineering is also recognized as one of the hundred best in the US, with pioneering research in areas as diverse as supercomputing, robotics, and electric vehicles.
The Fulton College offers the BYU Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Industrial Design, a program that builds on Fulton’s state-of-the-art facilities and award-winning faculty to apply the science and art of design to a wide variety of industries. From technical mastery to problem solving and aesthetics, the BYU Industrial Design program is designed to prepare students for the needs of clients and employers, manufacturers and consumers, with an interdisciplinary curriculum drawing on business, visual art, and engineering. A well-rounded program at a reasonable tuition rate makes BYU a definitive value.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $5300
Fulton College offers the BYU Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Industrial Design
2. James Madison University
Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #2 regional public institution in the South, James Madison University is also recognized as one of the best values, and greenest schools, in the nation. JMU’s reputation for student support and success has made it one of the most trusted institutions, with high marks from Money magazine for job-market success. With one of the most respected business schools in the nation, according to Businessweek and other ranking agencies, JMU is also home to one of the region’s most influential and respected art and design programs in the School of Art, Design, and Art History.
These strengths come together in the interdisciplinary JMU BS -one of the best Industrial Design schools, pulling together JMU’s best faculty in art, design, technology, and all of the fields necessary for success in the industrial design profession. The curriculum combines research with hands-on experimentation, from theory to manufacturing, as well as entrepreneurship, management, and business knowledge. The JMU way also emphasizes collaboration and cooperation, applying knowledge to real needs and problems to create graduates who will be leaders wherever they go.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $26,264
JMU BS in Industrial Design program
3. San Jose State University
San Jose State University makes no bones about its relationship to the tech industry – “Powering Silicon Valley” is at the center of their marketing, as SJSU sends more graduates into Silicon Valley careers than any other single university. Ranked as one of the top regional institutions in the West by U.S. News & World Report, SJSU is also known for music, literature, and the arts, but technology in San Jose State’s core, with an emphasis on innovation, motivation, entrepreneurship, and diversity. Successful alumni have given back as well, and SJSU has some of the strongest donor support and business partnerships of any school in the world.
With over three decades of experience, SJSU, one of the best Industrial Design degree programs is one of the most renowned and influential in the nation, feeding graduates directly into the highest reaches of the tech industry. The SJSU BS in Industrial Design uses its connections to Silicon Valley to bring the very latest, most current expertise into the program, combining experiential learning (including a required internship) with collaborative projects with business and other partners. A trusted track record of job-market desirability and success gives SJSU graduates assurance that their degrees will take them far.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $18,578
SJSU Industrial Design program
4. Georgia Institute of Technology
One of the foremost research universities in the South, Georgia Tech has been shaping the industry, business, medicine, technology, and applied science since its founding in 1885, bringing modern education and opportunity to the post-war South. Today Georgia Tech is a top 10 public university and one of the most influential business and engineering institutions in the world, with a student body, noted as the smartest in the nation (based on standardized test scores). Georgia Tech’s mission is to provide leaders in every facet of modern life, carrying the south into the 21st century and beyond.
Georgia Tech’s NASAD-accredited BS in Industrial Design degree program is the only program of its kind in Georgia, and one of the most important in the region. The Georgia Tech Industrial Design curriculum focuses on using critical thinking, design, and communication to help students take control of their careers, with master experts and experienced practitioners guiding them in the latest technology and age-old understanding of form and design. It’s a degree program that will carry graduates onto the job market with confidence and advantage.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $32,404
Georgia Tech’s NASAD-accredited BS in Industrial Design degree program
5. California State University, Long Beach
One of California’s most diverse and most socially-mobile institutions, California State University, Long Beach is known for its exceptional ability to provide education and career opportunity for the people of Los Angeles and Southern California. Ranked as one of the top regional institutions in the west by U.S. News & World Report, CSU Long Beach makes an impact with in-demand and excellent degree programs, from business and engineering to art and design. One of the lowest in-state tuition rates in the nation make Long Beach still more of a value.
The CSU Long Beach BS in Industrial Design is specifically formulated for professional practice, focused on the needs of manufacturers and customers. All areas of study, from aesthetics and technology to human factors and finance, are combined to make CSU Long Beach graduates market-ready, prepared to walk into their career with great ideas and practical experience on day one. Accredited by NASAD, CSU Long Beach, one of the best Industrial Design degree programs is made for today and tomorrow.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $17,620
CSU Long Beach BS in Industrial Design
6. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
One of the most prestigious public research institutions in the Midwest, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is recognized as a Public Ivy and one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 national universities. Known in particular for their engineering school, one of the top 5 in the nation, and for their acclaimed business school, Illinois is also home to one of the region’s most reputable schools of Art and Design, considered one of the best industrial design degree programs.
UIUC’s School of Art and Design brings together some of the university’s most innovative interdisciplinary faculty for the University of Illinois Industrial Design BFA. Led by theoretical experts and experienced practitioners in the field, a NASAD-accredited and one of the best Industrial Design degree programs give students a fully rounded education in both the ideas and debates within Industrial Design, and the practical and technological skills to create and execute their designs. Cutting-edge labs and equipment, and excellent motivation and support, make the UIUC one of the best Industrial Design degree programs a model for the profession.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $30,680
UIUC Industrial Design program
7. University of Wisconsin-Stout
With the official status of Wisconsin’s public polytechnic institute, the University of Wisconsin-Stout is dedicated to combining the critical thinking, creativity, and adaptability of traditional liberal-arts education with the market-ready, in-demand skills of the applied sciences. UW Stout is not only one of Wisconsin’s most respected institutions, but one of its most diverse, with a commitment to providing an opportunity for all of Wisconsin’s people and to standing up for the rights and well-being of its students and community. UW Stout is a 21st-century institution, training leaders for the future of the Midwest and all over the world.
Accredited by NASAD, UW Stout’s BFA in Industrial Design exemplifies Stout’s marriage of liberal arts and applied sciences, creating a unique program based on creativity, inspiration, problem-solving, and function. An expert interdisciplinary faculty made up of personnel from art, technology, and science helps students prepare for the specialized demands of an industrial design career, while the UW Stout name carries graduates into the job market with confidence.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $17,141
8. Virginia Tech
The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – better known as Virginia Tech – is widely regarded as one of the top public universities in the nation, a model of applied science, engineering, and business education. As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech is one of the most respected agricultural schools, and their architecture and urban planning department is one of the most influential in the world. Virginia Tech’s entire mission centers around bringing the very best possible education to the people of Virginia, with market-ready, world-changing careers waiting for graduates.
The award-winning School of Architecture + Design offers Virginia Tech’s Industrial Design program, a world-class curriculum that draws on practitioner expertise, deep corporate partnerships, and hands-on learning to prepare students for every challenge in industrial design. Virginia Tech’s Industrial Design puts people first, deploying humanistic values alongside technical skills to make products useful and purposeful. Graduates can expect the Virginia Tech reputation, backed up by NASAD accreditation, to take them far.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $29,975
9. Purdue University
A major, land-grant research institution, Purdue University is one of the most recognizable names in the Midwest, acclaimed by U.S. News & World Report as a top 20 public university and one of the top 10 undergraduate programs in the nation. As a land-grant university, Purdue has always been a leader in science and engineering, but is equally renowned in the liberal arts, including literature, writing, art, and design. Purdue’s equal excellence in science and the arts informs their top-tier Department of Art and Design, a leader in industrial and interaction design.
The Department of Art and Design offers the Purdue University BFA in Industrial Design, a deep-dive, NASAD-accredited professional degree program designed to bring together the critical out-of-the-box thinking and technical skill that makes for great industrial designers. Students practice sketching and designing with traditional tools, and three-dimensional design with technological tools, as well as collaboration and leadership through contests and interdisciplinary projects. Purdue is a trusted source in the Midwest and across the nation, for guaranteed entry into a rewarding career.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $28,804
10. University of Minnesota
As Minnesota’s flagship public research institution, the University of Minnesota is one of the most significant and influential universities in the Midwest, a center of learning and culture in the Twin Cities. UM has a history of excellence dating back to 1851, with Nobel Prize-winning faculty, MacArthur genius grant winners, and some of the most decorated and successful alumni in the nation, including statespeople, artists, and writers (such as radio legend Garrison Keillor). From engineering to law, healthcare to the arts, the Golden Gophers are leaders.
The UM BS in Product Design, offered by the College of Design, is a challenging interdisciplinary program that combines art, physics, programming, entrepreneurship, and even psychology and anthropology to give students a full and marketable NASAD-accredited education in every aspect of the field. With two internships in different locations, students earn not only hands-on experience but job market entry, while unique minors – including Kinesiology (for human interaction) and Swedish (a natural for Minnesota, the better for a plum IKEA design career) – make for enormous potential.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $23,806
11. University of Notre Dame
One of the most recognizable names in higher education – both for their uncommon excellence and connections and for their storied athletics program – the University of Notre Dame is a U.S. News & World Report Top 15 national university and one of the highest-ranked undergraduate educators. Notre Dame graduates have one of the highest starting salary and mid-career salary rates in the nation, making a Notre Dame degree one of the best nationally for ROI. An esteemed research institution, Notre Dame has been a trend-setter in science and the arts for over a century and a half.
The Department of Art, Art History, and Design at Notre Dame offers a BFA or BA in Industrial Design steeped in human behavior, ethical responsibility, critical thinking, and problem-solving – the hallmarks of private Catholic education. These liberal arts values are combined with technology, entrepreneurship, engineering, and ecology to create a NASAD-accredited degree in industrial design that can take graduates anywhere, alongside one of the most trusted names in the world to recruiters and employers.
Annual Cost: $49,685
12. Iowa State University
The flagship public university in the state, Iowa State University is a top-tier land and space-grant research institution recognized as one of the most innovative universities in the nation for their research and economic impact on the region. With the focus on practical learning and leadership that is the land-grant tradition, Iowa State is one of the most important influences and developers the state, with wide-ranging connections to the industry of Iowa, an important reason that ISU’s engineering and design programs are among the best in the nation.
The Iowa State Bachelor of Industrial Design is the real deal, a dedicated, specialized degree program entirely dedicated to the ins and outs of industrial design, spurred by experiential learning, internships, real-world problem-solving, and the needs of the modern marketplace. Students are given a NASAD-accredited grounding not only in technology and design principles, but business and management, to prepare graduates who can be not only world-class designers but team leaders and visionaries in their own right.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $21,583
13. Ferris State University
Ferris State University has innovation in its DNA, founded by noted educational reformer W. N. Ferris, who pioneered experiential learning and technical education. Today Ferris State is a highly-regarded regional institution, marked by small class sizes, hands-on education, and strong student support, including collaborative research between faculty and students. As a regional university, Ferris State puts a premium on practical and marketable professional education, preparing Michigan’s industry leaders.
The Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State offers an Industrial Design bachelor’s degree program designed to prepare students for the demands of today and tomorrow, with an in-depth mix of material science, human factors, design computing, and ethics. A number of labs and workshops provide all students need for a variety of projects, and close relationships give students a grounding in collaboration and teamwork suited to the modern industrial design field. Low tuition rates and strong, NASAD-accredited education add up to reliable returns from Ferris State.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $18,048
14. Western Washington University
A mid-sized public institution, Western Washington University has been recognized by Forbes and other ranking agencies as a top value in the region, providing the small class size, close attention from faculty, and strong student support that a smaller institution can offer. WWU has been acclaimed as one of the top regional colleges in the Pacific Northwest, with a diverse student body and a variety of professional and technical degree programs designed to meet the economic needs of the northwest and Washington.
The WWU BS in Industrial Design is an interdisciplinary program drawing together engineering, art, and design faculty and facilities to create a demanding, challenging curriculum that will give students all they need for their professional industrial design careers. From sculpting and drawing to computer modeling, as well as intensive courses in business, law, and social science, Industrial Design at WWU is an all-around, NASAD-accredited education making students into problem-solving leaders, all for a reasonable tuition rate and strong job market reputation.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $21,847
15. Lawrence Technological University
Lawrence Technological University is a private polytechnic institution with a long history of excellence at the forefront of industrial and professional education. Founded in 1932 to provide a fully-open education to any person who qualified, regardless of background, Lawrence Tech combined experiential education and classroom learning with classes held in a building leased from Ford Motors alongside a production plant, providing an early experiment in industry-university collaboration. That spirit continues today at Lawrence Tech.
The Lawrence Tech BS in Industrial Design builds on nearly a century of industry-ready expertise and NASAD-accredited courses, creating a fully integrated multi-disciplinary curriculum founded in collaboration, creativity, and focused problem-solving. With guidance in entrepreneurship and management, creativity and sustainability, and applied engineering, Lawrence Tech leads students into their careers with the confidence that comes from being the best.
Annual Cost: $31,180
16. New Jersey Institute of Technology
In 1881, with Newark, NJ, growing into one of the leading industrial cities of the region, the New Jersey Institute of Technology was founded with the support of local business leaders to provide a well-educated workforce. Built on applied science and engineering, today NJIT is one of a select few elite polytechnic institutes in the nation, recognized as one of the finest research universities in the region as well as one of the most diverse, a force for social mobility and economic impact in Brick City.
The NJIT School of Art and Design offers a BS in Industrial Design that pulls together all of the resources of a world-class research university, from labs and workshops to high-tech classrooms and corporate partnerships, into an NASAD-accredited curriculum. Industrial Design students can work with a wide variety of traditional and digital media, a wealth of materials, and even smart technology and robotics. NJIT is known for success placing students in rewarding, satisfying careers with their many corporate partners and collaborators, making NJIT a clear winner.
Annual Cost: $31,034
17. Montclair State University
New Jersey’s second-largest university, after flagship Rutgers University, Montclair State University is a major public research institution recognized in the top tier of national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Located just a hop, skip, and jump from New York City, Montclair State students benefit from access to a tremendous job market and a low tuition rate, which adds up to a strong return on investment for graduates.
That location is especially advantageous for students in the Montclair State Product Design BFA program since it gives them access not only to the many firms and corporations in the NYC area, but to contests, internships, and partnerships that provide experience. This NASAD-accredited, multi-disciplinary program is one of the most competitive in the nation because it delivers: from study abroad opportunities to internships, students get all they could hope for out of the Montclair State experience.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $20,007
18. Appalachian State University
No public research university is as deeply ensconced in the life of the Appalachian Mountains as Appalachian State University, part of the nationally-respected University of North Carolina system. Appalachian State has been bringing key professional and technical education programs to the region since 1899, becoming one of the most significant forces for economic development and social mobility in and around Boone, NC. Today Appalachian State continues to bring opportunity to a changing culture with technology, service learning, and community engagement.
Appalachian State’s large Industrial Design BS program offers two concentrations: Product Design, and Furniture Design (traditionally a major part of the North Carolina economy). This NASAD-accredited program is rooted in research, with students learning about consumer needs, psychology, and marketing in addition to design and engineering skills. While critical thinking and problem-solving are central, hands-on instruction is also incorporated into all aspects of the curriculum, so students can trust that they will be prepared for a life-long profession.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $21,652
19. Wentworth Institute of Technology
Boston, MA, is the city of education, with the highest concentration of world-class colleges and universities in the nation, but even so, Wentworth Institute of Technology is notable as a top value and best investment. A small polytechnic institute, Wentworth does not have the name recognition of some of its neighbors but is nonetheless recognized by Fortune, Brookings, and U.S. News & World Report as one of the best choices out there, with one of the highest return on investment rates, best-earning power, and lowest rate of loan default in the nation.
Wentworth’s BS in Industrial Design is the perfect example of what Wentworth is capable of, and NASAD-accredited, highly collaborative, and competitive program that makes leaders of its students. Wentworth’s co-op experience, in which students work in the field while completing their degrees, has a high rate of success, with half of Wentworth’s students receiving job offers from their co-op sponsor before graduation. That kind of opportunity makes Wentworth a definitive value.
Annual Cost: $33,724
20. University of Michigan
Michigan’s flagship institution, the University of Michigan is one of the most acclaimed public research universities in the nation, regularly ranked among the top nationally. From law and business to engineering and technology, UM has made major contributions to learning and knowledge, and UM’s age-old commitment to innovation can be seen in other disciplines as well, such as the Stamps School of Art and Design, one of the first and most influential dedicated art and design schools of its kind.
The NASAD-accredited Stamps School offers a BA in Art and Design, a unique program that provides students with more flexibility and opportunity than a traditional BFA, while also offering a deep experience in the liberal arts. Students in the BA program can choose from a wide variety of electives to create a tailored educational path to develop the skills they need for a career in industrial design or some related specialization. With the University of Michigan’s reputation, graduates can expect doors to open across the Midwest and around the world.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $45,410
21. Carnegie Mellon University
Originally founded in 1900 by educational philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to provide an educational opportunity for the working people of Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University has always had excellence and innovation at its heart, from experimental education methods to cutting-edge research for the most promising students in America. One of the top institutions in the world for technology and engineering, Carnegie Mellon rivals the Ivy League, as well as the top polytechnic institutes, for quality and opportunity.
Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design offers a Bachelor of Design degree program that incorporates the full sweep of design knowledge, from digital technology and real-world craft to marketing and communication. As one of the first dedicated design schools in the nation, Carnegie Mellon is a longtime leader in the field, and their specialized BDes program is a model of the kind, with NASAD accreditation further assuring students that their education is what the 21st century calls for.
Annual Cost: $52,310
22. North Carolina State University
One of the nation’s foremost engineering, applied science, and technology universities, North Carolina State University is a public research institution that has been a leader in research and learning since its 1887 founding. A land, sea, and space-grant institution, NCSU helped define education in agriculture, textiles, paper, and other engineering fields, while its role as one of the founding institutions in the Research Triangle brought NCSU acclaim as a pioneer in university-corporate partnerships.
That history shapes NCSU’s Bachelor of Industrial Design, a NASAD-accredited specialized degree that offers students guidance from some of the most respected industry experts and practitioners in the nation. Focused on real-world problem-solving and strategy, the NCSU BID program draws heavily on its many connections in industry and business for an education that is as practical as it is rewarding.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $26,399
NCSU’s Bachelor of Industrial Design
23. University of Houston
A top-tier research institution and the flagship of the University of Houston System (one of Texas’ three public university systems), the University of Houston is an elite public university with world-class business, law, hospitality, and entrepreneurship programs. One of the nation’s most diverse institutions, the University of Houston is committed to providing educational and professional opportunities to traditional and nontraditional students from a variety of backgrounds, opening doors in Texas’ top economy.
The Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston brought the first BS in Industrial Design program in the region, with some of the most decorated and dedicated interdisciplinary faculty in the field. Between theory and research, and technology and craft, the BSID program focuses on collaboration and teamwork in project-based, experiential education, giving graduates the full picture of industrial design, as well as a nationally-respected name to carry onto the job market.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $21,711
24. University of Utah
Utah’s oldest higher education institution, the University of Utah was founded well before Utah was even a state, to provide an education for the pioneers who turned Salt Lake City from wilderness to a developed urban center. At the top of Carnegie Foundation’s research university classification, the University of Utah has produced faculty and alumni who have led the way in technology, engineering, medicine, and the arts, from Nobel Prizes to MacArthur genius grants.
The University of Utah offers a BS in Multi-Disciplinary Design, a flexible, open-ended program designed around meeting real and specific market needs. UU’s MDD program focuses on ethical responsibility, strategic action, and observational research, with students learning to take on problem-solving and planning that provides for human factors while also using technology and entrepreneurship for its best purposes. UU’s reputation is sterling, giving graduates high hopes on their career path.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $27,039
25. Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University is the main educational institution in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A culturally unique area founded on mining and logging, the Upper Peninsula is also a region in transition, and NMU is a major force in bringing professional and technical education to the Yoopers (as the Upper Peninsula residents are often called). That includes premier programs in technology and engineering, as well as other job-market-ready degrees suited to Michigan’s industry and business.
Such programs include NMU’s BFA from the School of Art & Design, which includes potential specializations like Human-Centered Design and Furniture Design. These majors are perfect entry points into industrial design and product design, giving students an education in practical, hands-on skills as well as planning, development, and execution. NMU’s tradition of service and dedication to the needs of the region gives graduates a well-prepared avenue into a secure and ever-growing career.
Non-Resident Annual Cost: $15,262
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