In creating socially impactful objects and experiences, industrial designers and engineers are natural, complementary partners: Just as engineers benefit from designers’ creativity and speculative mindset, designers gain much from the informed pragmatism of engineers essential to turning design breakthroughs into viable solutions.
At the intersection of these disciplines is design engineering—the emerging field at the core of the Master of Arts in Design Engineering (MADE), a joint RISD/Brown University graduate program launching in summer 2021. Engaging in experiential, project-based learning, students in the 11-month degree program work with fellow designers and engineers, as well as professionals across a wide range of disciplines, to express ideas and address social issues through object-making, with an ultimate goal of improving lives.
Drawing on the neighboring institutions’ history of cross-disciplinary collaboration, the partnership between RISD’s Architecture + Design division and the Brown School of Engineering brings together faculty whose expertise supports a small student cohort (18 maximum) in understanding diverse perspectives and synthesizing them within a variety of real-world contexts.
MADE students will collaborate in dedicated studios and maker spaces and take advantage of resources on both campuses—including RISD’s Nature Lab and the student-run Brown Design Workshop—and gain valuable field experience in such areas as museum education, healthcare safety and aviation design.
The program covers a lot of ground in just under a year—from the theoretical and methodological foundations of design engineering, to research, development, iteration and audience identification—and culminates with students collaborating with partner organizations to complete semester-long degree projects.
Upon completing the program, graduates “will be prepared to work in team-based environments that [call for] a holistic approach to problem solving,” says Khipra Nichols BID 78, who leads RISD’s Industrial Design department.
“Whether it’s creating an attractive and energy-efficient home or developing a precisely tuned medical device that is easy for providers to use, there’s a rich landscape of work that can benefit from integrating design and engineering,” adds MADE co-director Christopher Bull, a senior lecturer in Engineering at Brown. Both he and Nichols are confident that RISD and Brown’s specific approach to design engineering—and the professional connections the program will help forge—will benefit both students and the greater public.
“Powerful things happen,” Bull says, “when you bring these two perspectives together, while also immersing students in a hands-on, project-based environment.”
Apply to the MADE program at design.engineering.brown.edu. Applications are due February 1, 2021.