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MIT Master’s Program Intersects Engineering, Business, and Industrial Design

It’s a pretty safe bet that if you’re a mechanical engineer, you know the bare minimum about industrial design and even less about business. Chances are, business folks and industrial designers also stick pretty close to their knitting. This makes for some pretty distinct silos that should in fact be actively collaborating over the course of product development.

In recognition of the gap, MIT’s Sloan School of Management together with MIT School of Engineering have launched a new Master’s Degree program aimed at bridging these disciplines and better preparing students seeking a career path at the intersection of business, engineering and design.

The new Integrated Design & Management (IDM) track, which resides within the MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program, is aimed at early to mid-career professionals and takes its cues from a Product Design and Development class that got a lot of play among current and graduating students. PDD’s interdisciplinary focus and its learn-by-doing teaching approach set it apart from other course offerings and helped other engineering and business disciplines see the value in industrial design from the early onset of product development.

Graduates taking IDM's precursor course when on to design products like Avatech's SP1 avalanche safety system. Image Courtesy of Avatech

MIT graduates who took the precursor course to IDE went on to design products like Avatech’s SP1 avalanche safety system. Image Courtesy of Avatech

“We felt it was pretty important to validate this way of thinking at an institutional level and award a degree,” said Matt Kressy, director and creator of IDM and a senior lecturer at MIT with a background in industrial design. “This type of thinking is now a necessity to be competitive in the marketplace. You can’t go out there and make a science project successful because someone else will add design to it and eat your lunch.”

Students who graduate from the program will take a balanced approach and bring a hybrid engineering sensibility to their work. For example, students with a mechanical engineering background will gain an understanding of how to value industrial design requirements at the beginning of design while business folks will learn the value of what good usability and engineering can bring to the marketability of a product.

“Mechanical engineers will change the structure of their work such that they integrate industrial design and business sensibilities into their approach from the beginning so they don’t end up with a result that needs to be redone,” Kressy said.

“They’ll know if a particular design is valuable from a business perspective because they’ll know how to go through the right steps and involve the right people to make sure a product is profitable, that the supply chain is in place, and that they understand the market and distribution channels.”

The two-year program will kick off this fall with 20 students. Graduates, who will hail from equal parts engineering, business, and design backgrounds, will receive a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT. The core curriculum will be taught in an Integrated Design Lab studio that is equipped with state-of-the-art tools, including 3D printers and robotic arms.

This virtual session from Program Director Matt Kressy provides an overview of the MIT IDM program.

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About Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.

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