Distance Learning Industrial Design Degree Program Options

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Degrees in industrial design are rarely available entirely through online study, although a few online programs do exist at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. Hybrid programs are more common, which combine online studies with on-campus classes and studio work. Most online classes allow students to log on to a course management system and download class materials and view lectures at any time.

Students must have a high school diploma or GED certificate to enroll in an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Students must complete general education courses in subjects include English composition, social studies and mathematics. In these programs, students develop fundamental skills in design technology, engineering and the principles of design. Graduates with an associate's degree may be able to obtain an entry-level position in the field of industrial design, but a bachelor's degree is required for most jobs.

Admission requirements to a master's degree program in industrial design usually include a bachelor's degree and a portfolio of the student's work. In these programs, which take about two years to complete, students hone their aesthetic and technical skills. Most programs require a final thesis project.

Associate's Degree in Industrial Design

Students interested in entering the field of industrial design can get an associate's degree either entirely online, though these programs are scarce, or in a hybrid format with over 50% of the courses delivered through distance learning. Associate of Art (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) in Industrial Design programs are both available. Students develop skills involving the design of products and packaging through the use of high-level technologies, engineering processes, 3-D modeling systems, creativity and innovation.

Program Information and Requirements

A distance learning associate's degree in industrial design program commonly consists of 63-66 credit hours spread out over four semesters. The 100% online programs require no in-person work; however, the hybrid programs require some on-campus activity, so they would not be ideal for students who live a long distance from the administering school. Online courses usually have an asynchronous format, which means that materials can be accessed through an online course management system, such as Blackboard, and worked on at any time, as long as certain deadlines are met. Students interact with their instructors and peers through Web-based message boards, chat rooms, e-mail and phone.

Course Topics

About three-fourths of the credits for an associate's degree consist of courses required by the major, while the other one-fourth is made up of liberal arts classes. Select schools also may require some introductory-level English, engineering, math, psychology or physics classes.

Color and Design

Principles of form and space that guide basic visual concepts, such as arrangement, content and symmetry, are studied intensively. Students are introduced to the creation of various 2-D and 3-D media. The theories, physics, harmonies and psychologies of color are also examined through the roles they play in painting and design.

Art History

This course presents a summary of visual art and the major artistic movements of Western Civilization from prehistoric through current times. Special attention is paid to important eras of art like the Gothic and Renaissance periods. Students begin to recognize the importance of art and comprehend the conventions of the arts and their relation to different forms of modern media.

Model Making

Students acquire skills and knowledge of the materials, tools, methods and techniques used to make full-size models that are representative of specific product ideas. Materials such as wood, foam, acrylic and resin are utilized by students to create individually-realized projects. Extra focus is given to drafting and finishing tactics, as well as shop safety and manners.

Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Design

Distance learning Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Industrial Design programs are available, though rarely in an entirely online format. Students enrolled in these programs hone their technical skills, as well as learning to recognize and find the solutions to various design problems using critical thinking. Familiarity with the business world of industrial design is also provided.

Program Information and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in industrial design usually lasts about eight semesters. Programs can be completed entirely online, giving students the freedom to review Web-based assignments and lectures at any time or place, as long as specified deadlines are met. Teachers and colleagues can be contacted for discussing materials and asking questions through online discussion forums, e-mail and fax.

Course Topics

About 60% of the credits consist of major-required courses, while the remainder is made up of a combination of liberal arts classes and art electives. A final project demonstrates the student's overall knowledge of design idea formation and follow-through.

Product Drawing and Design

Students get acquainted with the drawing and rendering methods most commonly used in product design. Various styles of drawing using pens, markers and other illustrating tools are identified, as well as the effects of lighting, shading and textural elements on a finished drawing. The phases of the product development cycle are also studied, in addition to the importance of attaining necessary parts, accounting for production costs and finding possible buyers.

History of Industrial Design

Important early mechanical milestones in the field of industrial design are discussed. Students examine the impact of historical eras, such as the Industrial Revolution, on current design philosophies. Extra attention is given to the decades of the 1930s and '40s because they are considered the most prominent years of industrial design.

Careers and Portfolio

This course introduces students to the professional world of industrial design and possible career opportunities found within it. Students learn to create effective resumes and develop interview skills, as well as efficiently promoting themselves in the business world. What to include and omit from a professional-level portfolio is also highlighted.

Master's Degree in Industrial Design

Following completion of a bachelor's degree, students have the option of continuing their education with a distance learning Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Industrial Design program. Further options are available in the form of specializations, such as transportation and furniture design. Students enrolled in these programs develop a more fine-tuned set of skills for visually communicating concepts using industrial design materials, construction methods and digital technology.

Program Information and Requirements

The number of semesters needed to complete a distance learning master's degree in industrial design is typically eight. Although scarce, master's degree programs can be undertaken entirely online. Web-based courses are conducted asynchronously, meaning students have 24/7 access to assignments and other materials. Interaction between students and professors is achieved through various online discussions and other formats, such as e-mail, chat rooms, phone and fax.

Course Topics

The curriculum of a master's degree in industrial design program is comprised of a combination of studio courses, directed study, academic study and electives. Halfway through this degree program, students must submit an idea for a final thesis project to be approved by a review committee. Once the idea is accepted, students work closely with faculty mentors in directed study classes. When the project is completed, it is evaluated by the review committee and approved for possible public exhibition.

Industrial Design Drawing

This course focuses on refining drafting abilities and providing a detailed overview of products and objects from a design context. The interiors of products are emphasized. Students are presented with the concept of rapid visualization, which they use to convey visual information quickly and precisely.

Digital 3D Modeling

Students are introduced to 3-D modeling software, such as NURBS and Alias/Studio Tools, and taught how to convert their 2-D drawings into 3-D design models. The instruments and methods needed to create a digital wire frame are explained. Then, advanced rendering processes are utilized to convert the wire frame into a fully realized digital 3-D model.

Industrial Design Materials and Processes

The guidelines for selecting the appropriate components for production of various parts are studied. Kinds of metals and plastics are identified according to their unique traits. Students learn to cultivate, perfect and present design concepts and to diagnose problems inherent in the design process.

Career Information

Although a bachelor's degree is usually preferred for most entry-level industrial design positions, some jobs in designing products and packaging can be achieved with an associate's degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of May 2018, commercial and industrial designers had an average yearly salary of $71,430 ( The BLS estimated occupational growth of 3% in this field between the years 2018-2028, which was considered below average among all jobs.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design program provides adequate knowledge to become employed by a manufacturing, architectural, engineering or other type of design firm as a commercial or industrial designer. Workers at this level design products such as vehicles, furniture, appliances, toys or other consumer goods.

Receiving a master's degree in industrial design increases one's chance of being hired by a commercial or industrial design firm and gives the holder an edge over candidates who only have a bachelor's degree. Teaching at a 2-year college is also a possibility for those who've completed a master's degree, though some instructional training may also be required. Postsecondary teachers in general made an average of $76,990 per year as of May 2018, and the BLS predicted faster-than-average occupational growth of 11% for postsecondary teachers between 2018 and 2028.

Continuing Education Information

Doctoral programs in industrial design do exist, though their prevalence in distance learning formats is scarce. These programs prepare graduates for employment at 4-year colleges or research universities.

A select few programs in industrial design are available online at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. These programs equip students with a fundamental understanding of design principles and technology.

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