capabilities of online industrial design courses

29 Jun 2010 - 1:27pm
6 years ago
4 replies
5529 reads

Hello. My background in design (outside of interaction issues) is kind of weak, so I'm interested in some continuing education. Specifically, I'd like some training in industrial design, and I've found a couple of graduate level programs (e.g., SCAD) that offer eLearning in that discipline. My question concerns the effectiveness of eLearning in this case.

I've taken some online graphic, digital, and interaction design courses, and those went well enough. Industrial design, however, involves a much greater use of non-digital materials for building models and so on; hence, many schools have labs and workshops for their students.

How is that sort of activity translated into an eLearning medium, though? Must the distance learner supply his or her own materials in that case? Is it possible to get proper training in industrial design this way? Distance learning may always be at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to traditional education, but is the situation worse for this particular discipline?

Thanks in advance for any advice.


29 Jun 2010 - 4:30pm

You mention that you have done some online courses in Interaction design... I am looking for such course at the moment.

Do you have any recommendations?
Thanks in advance and sorry for asking you questions instead of answering your questions.


30 Jun 2010 - 2:40am

Hi. The only school I can comment on in terms of online content is the Academy of Art in San Francisco. It has several online graduate programs; the one closest to interaction design is the Web Design & New Media program. I don't have anything to compare it to in terms of design education, but I've learned some stuff from it so far, and I continue to take classes there. You generally have weekly or bi-weekly projects to complete over the courses of a semester, so it helps to build up a portfolio (albeit an academic one).

It's a bit pricey, though. It's also an actual masters program, so the school doesn't really let you take individual courses; rather, you have to apply and be accepted and all that. It may have an audit or continuing education option that I haven't seen, though.

29 Jun 2010 - 10:01pm
Dave Malouf

Hiya, I know there are Interactive Design courses online at  SCAD, but as far as I know there are no Industrial Design courses online. There may be Design Management which is in the department of industrial design (I didn't know they were done with those yet), but I'm almost positive that we do not have Industrial Design classes.

Industrial Design in continuing ed is something that I did that changed my life forever. I did not do it through e-Learning. I took the pre-grad school courses that Pratt offers (Brooklyn, NY, USA) in Product Design and Drawing for Product Design. These classes were instrumental in my conversion from an analytical thinker to an abductive thinker (the process is far from complete btw).

I do not think you can genuinely take industrial design courses online. The main reason is plainly the need for a workshop. You can't really do an intro to ID class w/o working in foam. Yes, you can do that on your own, but how many of us have space and proper ventilation to do that let alone all the tools we need. The workshop is also a studio where peers engage and help each other out and increases the total experience. 

If you want to begin the process of becoming a designer, I suggest start with something other than ID if you have to do it remotely. There are good successes in interactive and in graphic design studios being done online. Students rely on each other less for technical support, and have found ways to engage about the content of their studio instead of the technology. if you are looking at SCAD (and there are a ton of other places) both Interactive and Graphics offer great online options.

The other piece of advice (I am as of yet to follow up on personally, but believe to be good advice) is just go to a local art institute or even find something outside of a major institution and take a drawing class, especially a human figure drawing class. If I ever get a moment to breath here I'm definitely going to do that. Being forced to learn a physical craft like drawing changes the way you look at the world. BTW, if you are a musician of any notable level you probably already have some sense of this. (Martial Arts is another avenue that really brings home the importance of physicality & non-abstraction in craft.)

-=- dave

30 Jun 2010 - 2:31am


Hi, Dave. I was looking at the Industrial Design homepage, and if I'm interpreting the information under "Contact Industrial Design" on the top right, it says that the program is offered via eLearning as well as in the Savannah and Hong Kong branches.

Did I misunderstand that, then? Perhaps the "Hong Kong/Savannah/eLearning" line is referring to the Design school in general, but not Industrial Design in particular?


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