Industrial designers, furniture designers, and jewelry designers all create objects
that respond to human need, challenge convention, and elevate the lived experience.
In the Product Design program, the distinct perspectives and skill sets of these three
disciplines converge to build on one another, growing designers who have a uniquely
broad understanding of the design process coupled with deep expertise in the concentration
of their choosing.
From a solid foundation of critical research, ideation, making, and experimentation,
you’ll advance to solving real-world design problems in a collaborative and interdisciplinary
learning environment that reflects the working reality of 21st-century creative professionals.
"I want the pieces I make to draw back to honest materials, overall quality and sustainability."
Jake Hanson's love for hands-on making—first developed as a teen—has grown into a
powerful multidisciplinary creative skillset in the Product Design program through
his concentration in Furniture Design.
"Without KCAD I would not be creating furniture today. Four years there changed my life."
As the creative force behind C Yanxin Designs, KCAD grad Yanxin Chen is one of the
foremost furniture designers working in the industry today, and he's continually pushing
toward what's next.
You’ll spend your first two years in the Product Design degree program building the
core technical skills of design while also deepening your understanding of the human-centered
design process. Through hands-on experiences, you’ll actively learn how to understand
the problem or people you’re designing for, identify solutions or opportunities that
have the greatest potential for real-world success, and transform your ideas into
tangible, feasible, and marketable objects.
Your final two years will be focused on deepening your expertise in—and real-world
exposure to—one of three possible disciplines:
In theIndustrial Designconcentration, you’ll learn how to use the latest research and idea development strategies
to craft commercially viable objects that are functionally and aesthetically innovative.
In theFurniture Designconcentration, you’ll build on the field’s rich history by learning how to blend form
and function to create objects that unlock new possibilities for how people can interact
with the spaces in which they live and work.
In theMetals and Jewelry Designconcentration, you’ll concentrate on more intimate problems, learning how to thoughtfully
design and craft wearable and functional objects that can communicate individual and
group identity to the world.
You’ll also round your education out with a wide range of general education and art/design
history courses that will stimulate your curiosity, broaden your perspective, and
inspire new creative expressions. KCAD’s flexibleGeneral Education Pathwaysmodel empowers you to direct your learning by exploring subjects you find most engaging
In the Product Design degree program, you’ll develop a versatile set of creative skills—including
research methods, design sketching, color theory, visual communication, CAD modeling,
digital rendering, digital fabrication, and physical model making—that will ultimately
enable you to build expertise in:
Using qualitative research methods to identify problems and empathize with the behaviors
and experiences of others
Considering sustainability, social impact, and ethics in your design decisions
Understanding and designing for how the human body interacts with physical objects
Ideation and Experimentation
Exploring through making, testing, and iterating
Visually and verbally communicating your ideas
Growing shared understanding through critique and peer review
Drawing inspiration from historical and contemporary sources
Connecting form and function and powerful ways
Uncovering possibility through color and material choices
Technical Precision, Feasibility, and Craftsmanship
Leveraging classic and emerging fabrication techniques
Integrating innovative technology into functional designs
Designing for manufacturing with both boutique and mass markets in mind
The Product Design degree program is powered by a collaborative, interdisciplinary,
and outward-facing studio culture that will expand your perspective and enlarge your
sense of possibility. You and your fellow students will support each other’s growth
through peer review, while experiences outside of the classroom will connect you to
West Michigan’s booming design industry.
Throughout your time in the program, you’ll get up close and personal with industry
professionals and subject matter experts, making invaluable networking connections
and building a strong, career-focused portfolio through sponsored projects, professional
critiques, and internship experiences.
The Product Design degree program evolves three KCAD programs—each with a strong track
record of leading graduates to professional success—into a forward-thinking learning
experience driven by where design is now and where it’s headed next. Thanks to a unique
blend of classic industry training and an interdisciplinary approach to design, you’ll
emerge from the program prepared to adapt to and thrive within a wide variety of professional
Whether you’re looking to make your mark in an organization or make your own way as
an entrepreneur, you’ll become a leader who can grow in step with a rapidly-changing
world and use your creativity to bring lasting value to individuals, companies, and
culture-at-large. Possible careers include:
Furniture Design Concentration
Furniture Designer (independent or contract)
In-House Designer (for large manufacturing companies)
Furniture Design Educator
Lighting and Accessories Designer
Industrial Design Concentration
Industrial Designer (Independent Consultant)
Industrial Designer (Corporate Design Studio or Research & Development)
Industrial Designer (Start-Up Business)
Prototype or Model Maker
Research and Development
Metals and Jewelry Design Concentration
Fine and Costume Jewelry Designer
Independent Production Design/Entrepreneur
CAD Surfacer for Product or Jewelry Design
Technical Designer (3D Printing and Manufacturing Consultant)
On campus, you’ll have access to:
The Dow Center FlexLab, KCAD’s state-of-the-art digital fabrication facility featuring 3D printers and scanners,
laser cutting and vinyl cutting machines, wide format printers, and more.
The Baker Furniture Collection, a 1,500-square foot collection of period furniture and decorative arts spanning
more than three centuries of styles from around the world.
A spacious and well-equippedwoodshop, supervised by an experienced technician, with over 30 pieces of equipment at your
disposal, including table saws, sanders, and a fully-ventilated walk-in spray paint
and glue room.
A fully-equippedjewelry studiofeaturing wax injectors, vacuum and induction casting systems, torches and flexshafts,
a complete enameling setup, pneumatic assisted engraving toolsets, a collection of
silversmithing stakes and hammers, a rolling mill, shears, a brake, a drawbench, a
fume hood, equipment for electroforming and acid etching, as well as laser welders
and a vast collection of small, specialized tools.
Large-scale metal fabrication facilitiesfeaturing mig and tig welders, hydraulic shears, a metal band saw, a sandblaster,
a high-speed metal lathe, a tubing roller, and more specialized tools.
The KCAD Library, which provides access to millions of books through the MeLCat shared library catalog
as well as access to specialized research databases and subscriptions to scholarly
Off-campus, opportunities to connect with leading designers who visit Grand Rapids
and KCAD’s strong relationships with the local chapters of the Industrial Design Society
of America (IDSA) and the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) provide opportunities
for you to immerse yourself in the larger design community.
Thanks to a unique blend of classic industry training and an interdisciplinary approach
to design, you’ll emerge from the Product Design program prepared to adapt to and
thrive within a wide variety of professional settings.