Industrial Design at RISD focuses on a rigorous process with a concern for people-centered solutions that synthesize technology, ergonomics, and manufacturing questions into formal solutions.

Our alumni apply lessons first learned at RISD to create new business models, new systems and new products. They apply design to streamline the ways technologies are brought to market, and to improve the way platforms deliver experiences. The design education at RISD prepares them to design new products and whole new design disciplines. Industrial Design at RISD embraces the diversity of our alumni’s experience. Across our graduate and undergraduate programs we teach our students the skills, habits of mind and approaches they need to orient their careers and to navigate the different moments of leadership they will encounter over their lifetime.

Product Leadership – the creation of new artifacts and new offerings. (see: product design, ui/ux design, service design)

Process Leadership – the ways that designers coach others through better decision-making and design processes. (see: design thinking, organization design, participatory and co-design)

Vision Leadership – the kinds of work that chief executive officers, entrepreneurs, and strategists engage in. (see: design thinking, strategic design)

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We believe that to navigate these moments of leadership, our graduates need to know how to to design objects and artifacts; they need to be explicit about the value those products deliver in larger services and experiences; they need to understand how those services are supported by designed systems and platforms; and they need to see how those systems are organized to achieve strategic outcomes for organizations and initiatives. 


Design is Expanding

The "industrial" in industrial design once stood for the design of goods to be produced by industry. No longer narrowly focused on the creation of industrial goods, industrial design at RISD looks at the systems of production, distribution, and consumption that shape contemporary life.

Global supply chains and telecommunications force businesses to think of themselves as planetary enterprises. Digital technologies confuse the line between objects and information, creating more intimate connections between our physical and virtual experiences. Small organizations and individuals have access to the means of production, the funding sources, and the public's that were once the province of large enterprises. Technological advances are contributing to the radical rethinking of how value is created for businesses, people and organizations.

To remain competitive in this shifting landscape, organizations need to see beyond their traditional roles and expectations. The best way to prepare for an expanded discipline is through an expanded education.

Tomorrow’s designers do not benefit from narrow professional training but from learning how to be critical thinkers and critical makers –  to think with their hands, to learn by making, and to lead by ideas. To enable our students to learn, think and lead we use material making and material design to gain experience in design processes; we explore how to apply those processes to the development of products, services, systems and strategies; and we gain mastery in the tools needed to craft not just artifacts, but experiences, platforms and systems.

Across our graduate and undergraduate programs, we teach our students the skills, habits of mind, and approaches that they need to flourish in our complex world.