Asking the Employer About M&P

Warren Ginn, Sharon Joines
North Carolina State University


Warren Ginn, FIDSA | Sharon Joines, IDSA
North Carolina State University

Research into the current state of materials and processes education in undergraduate industrial design programs in the US and Canada yields insights into the use of surveys to collect meaningful data from participants. The study's objective is to investigate how educators might be assisted to improve outcomes for industrial design graduates and create more value for clients (students) and consumers (employers).

A survey was constructed and distributed to businesses in the US and Canada that employ industrial designers. Participants represented all areas of industrial design and markets. The survey was comprised of a combination of closed-ended questions (e.g., multiple choice) and open-ended questions (allowing written responses from the participants). Participants were asked questions regarding their expectations of industrial designers (particularly recently graduated, entry-level industrial designers) and their findings when interviewing candidates.

Taken at face value, survey data with solely quantitative data may be misleading. While messy and hard to efficiently manage, qualitative data (in the form of written participant responses to open-ended questions) provided a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.  This resolved ambiguity and added clarity to the findings. If someone were to look at the skills ranking alone, without context, one might conclude that spending time and resources to educate industrial design students about material and manufacturing processes was not a wise investment. But by digging deeper and "connecting the dots" between the quantitative data from the closed-ended questions and the rich qualitative data from the open-ended questions, it is clear that the study of materials and manufacturing remains a critical and valuable skill for industrial design students.

In addition to providing the ability to cross-check participant responses, these written statements provided information and insights into what, specifically, the employers are looking for and think is important. These insights will lead the development and proposal of a baseline of "best practices" for teaching Materials and Processes in Industrial Design programs. This proposal will be presented in future publications.