Graduate Industrial Design at-a-glance

Year established: 1996
Degree offered: Master of Science
Average size of entering class: 12
Number of Faculty: 11
Total units required: 102

For 2010, gradID was ranked nationally as the number one graduate industrial design program both in U.S. News & World Report and in DesignIntelligence. In five of the last six years, it has been ranked number one in DesignIntelligence’s America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools issue, which bases its ranking by asking professional offices, “Which colleges best prepare graduates for their profession.”

Our Program

“ Finding that sweet spot where business, technology and design intersect really resonated with me. Initially, I was very focused on creating an object; after gradid, my focus shifted to design in the context of a larger ecosystem.”
Claire Gerhardt ’07

“Strategic innovation” is how we define our program’s design methodology.

At its core, strategic innovation takes a systems-level view and strives to balance the business, technological and human aspects of any challenge. It’s a creative process and a disciplined skill set for creating empathetic solutions to complex and unstructured problems. And it’s a broadly applicable approach that allows designers—and the organizations they work with—to be resilient and to grow.
The role of designers is shifting dramatically within enterprise. Companies used to employ designers to make their offerings more appealing or functional—usually long after executives had made plans for what to offer their customers. Today, as organizations navigate hyper-competitive markets, they are also looking to design at the earliest stages to help steer them to the future. Tomorrow’s designers will add essential value to business by identifying areas of expansion and opportunity, designing organizational change and inspiring and leading transdisciplinary teams to innovate for a better future.
In order to succeed in this new environment, designers must understand, embrace and incorporate business principles early on in their thinking and processes. That is why our program stresses that students’ ideas should take the form of fully-integrated business models. And in order to create meaningful solutions for a rapidly changing world, we as industrial designers must draw upon a wide range of experiences. That is why both our faculty and students come from a variety of educational, cultural and professional backgrounds.
As a graduate program, we engage in ongoing research to advance knowledge in our field and to continuously improve our methods. We design with a consciousness that our products and innovations exist in a larger social and ecological context. And because our methodologies focus on the process of solving problems, they can be broadly applied to a variety of issues, whether they exist in environments, products, transportation, networks, media or beyond.
We’re confident our graduates receive the theories, knowledge and practice necessary to emerge as the types of creative leaders our evolving world increasingly needs.

Our Community

“I was impressed with the mix of backgrounds within  the department. I had classmates from Japan, Korea, Canada and South Africa; from different age groups; and from fields outside of design. Everybody brought something different to the table. When we tossed ideas back and forth, sparks flew and concepts were born.”
Dan Winger ’07

GradID’s facilities define a design studio environment with individual workspaces for students and conference rooms for scheduled classes, group projects and presentations. All of Art Center’s educational resources and facilities are available to students, including: editing bays; printmaking, photo and computer labs; the shops, including 3D Rapid Prototyping technologies; the Color, Materials and Trends Explorational Laboratory (CMTEL), and the James Lemont Fogg Memorial Library, which features an unparalleled collection of art and design reference materials.

Our Surroundings

Situated just 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena is a vibrant and sophisticated city. Best known to Americans for its sunny weather and its annual Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl college football game, Pasadena is also known as a “City of Learning,” containing the second-highest concentration of art, cultural and educational institutions in the United States. The city has a rich architectural and design history that includes works by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Greene brothers, Wallace Neff and artisans of the Arroyo Craftsman style. It also hosts an impressive collection of cultural institutions including the Norton Simon Museum; The Huntington Library, Art Collection & Botanical Gardens; the Armory Center for the Arts; and the Pacific Asia Museum. Pasadena has long been a center for scientific and aerospace innovation, and is home to both the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Many of our students and alumni choose to live and launch their businesses here. Renowned new business incubator Idealab and Honda’s Advanced Research Studio are also located nearby in the Old Pasadena district.

Pasadena is located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains at the northern edge of the greater Los Angeles region. Home to 18 million residents and one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse metropolitan areas, the Los Angeles region offers an abundance of opportunities and advantages. Considered by many Asian cultures as the Western gateway to the Pacific Rim, Southern California is an international center of art, innovation and entrepreneurship. The region’s unique culture, talent and year-round sunny climate makes it home to companies in the entertainment, aerospace, fashion and consumer products industries. Such companies include Sony, The Walt Disney Company, Electronic Arts, NBC Universal, Samsung and Nokia. Over a dozen major automobile manufacturers, including BMW DesignworksUSA, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes have studios in the area. The Los Angeles region is also home to a thriving art scene with some 350 art galleries and several world-class museums, including the Getty Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

About Art Center

Founded in 1930, Art Center College of Design has long been at the forefront of cultivating leaders in the fields of art and design. From its seminal role in the founding of the first advanced-design concept studio for the automotive industry in the 1950s, to being the first design school to receive the United Nations non-governmental organization (NGO) status, to its commitment to having art and design play a role in addressing sustainability issues, Art Center has a history of anticipating societal changes and trends. Art Center is comprised of two facilities. The Hillside Campus is home to our undergraduate programs, the Graduate Industrial Design (GradID) and Graduate Broadcast Cinema programs, administrative offices and much of the College’s faculty and staff. Home to Art Center since 1976, the main Hillside Campus building is a dramatic postmodern steel-and-glass bridge structure spanning an arroyo in the San Raphael Hills, just above the Rose Bowl. Designed by Craig Ellwood Associates, it has been designated a historical landmark by the City of Pasadena. South Campus, formerly a supersonic wind tunnel located in downtown Pasadena, houses Art Center’s Graduate Art and Media Design programs as well as Art Center’s Public Programs and the Archetype Press, a one-of-a-kind letterpress printing facility. Art Center offers undergraduate degree programs in Advertising, Entertainment Design, Environmental Design, Film, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Photography and Imaging, Product Design and Transportation Design and graduate programs in Art, Broadcast Cinema, Industrial Design and Media Design. Art Center also offers public programs for the larger community, including seminars, lectures, exhibitions and conferences, as well as enriching classes for adults and children.

Are you right for GradID?

We’re looking for bright, articulate, intellectual, literate and social individuals.
Students with industrial design undergraduate degrees and various levels of professional experience comprise a slight majority of our student body. We prefer students with professional industrial design experience whose work has resulted in market-tested designs. However, we also accept candidates with a wide variety of undergraduate degrees and professional experience. In fact, breadth in the background of our students plays an important role in defining the transdisciplinary culture of our program.

We’re especially interested in individuals who can:

  • Make appropriate and human-centered designs.
  • Write and communicate effectively with language.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of, and experience with, 3D form and design.
  • Draw effectively and visualize via other methods and mediums.
  • Select important projects and identify real needs.
  • Research, investigate and analyze design topics.
  • Experiment, think laterally and engage in creative idea-generation activities.
  • Demonstrate consistently great visual design sensibility and ability, with an attention to style, proportion, shape, material, color, etc.
  • Take a systems approach to design solutions and demonstrate an understanding of the business, technological and human related aspects of the design context.
  • Create value for the human condition, in addition to satisfying an aesthetic appetite for consumption-driven style and fashion products (e.g. chairs, desk sets, most cars, and designer teapots).

Portfolio Format

We pay close attention to the design of the experience that applicants create for us with their portfolio. Applicants should consider messages conveyed by the design of their portfolio and clearly show their ability to meet the requirements for application as outlined on Art Center’s website (
Binders and portfolios that keep work organized are desirable. Digital versions of work (CD or DVD) are acceptable. Powerpoint and Keynote files are preferred. Please make sure that files are easy to understand and, whenever possible, that the work is organized in a single executable file. Titles and descriptions of work should be included.

Admissions Process

All candidates should visit the Admissions page on the Art Center website, where admissions requirements are outlined. Applications are for entry to the Fall term only. February 1 is the deadline for priority consideration, including potential for scholarship award, with decisions being made in the month of March. Applications will continue to be accepted after the deadline as long as space is available, but there is not guarantee that those applications will be reviewed for scholarship award.

Scholarships and Financial aid are available. Procedures and deadlines are outlined on the website.

We strongly encourage students to visit the campus and to meet with the GradID department chair. To arrange a general visit and tour, call 626.396.2373.

To schedule an interview with GradID, call 626.396.2464.


Maritza Herrera Department Coordinator