Thomas Ask, IDSA

Thomas Ask, IDSA
Pennsylvania College of Technology

Thomas Ask, IDSA is a Professor of Industrial Design at the Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn College), an affiliate of Penn State University, where he has taught for 19 years. He also is the faculty advisor for the Penn College IDSA Student Chapter. 

Ask has served on a variety of Penn College committees, including the art gallery, long-term planning, student affairs, makerspace, and colloquia committees. He organized the industrial design program’s curriculum development, as well as the College’s honors program, for which he served as the coordinator for three years. In addition, he earned an appointment as a Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Malaysia in 2009. 

Prior to his faculty appointment at Penn College, he spent 17 years in industry, working full time in a variety of design and management positions. During this time, he designed dozens of commercialized products and systems, and earned two patents.

His education includes a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Excelsior College, and a Doctor of Professional Studies in Industrial Design from Middlesex University. Ask also completed a five-course graduate management program at Cornell University. He is a licensed professional engineer, and won the Middlesex University Goulding Prize for Professional Excellence for his ethnographically-based boat design.

He is the author of five books, including “Engineering for Industrial Designers and Inventors,” “Intense Design: Product Design Lessons from Cold War Era Skunk Works,” and the forthcoming “Wooden Wonders: Ethnographically Determined Design Influences in Traditional Malaysian Fishing Boats.” He has authored over a dozen conference and journal papers related to design and education, as well as several poems and paintings in literary journals.

In 2017, Ask worked with two physicians to write an invited paper on palliative care for the developing world for the Design for All Institute of India. This integration of design and medicine was presented at a 2017 colloquium entitled “Medical Care on the Edge: Redesigning Care Across Cultures.” Other public lectures include “Sustainable Product Design” and “Three Mile Island: The First Two Hours,” which considered human factor and technical issues related to the nuclear plant failure.

Video presentations include the 2016 OReilly Media series “Engineering for Industrial Designers and Inventors: How to Design Wonderful Things,” based on his book. He also contributed the industrial design presentation featured in the 2016 local PBS program “Design and Do” that described design professions.

Ask has dedicated the latter half of his career to education. Throughout, he has strived to balance art foundations, technology, and industry needs in the industrial design program.