What is the Institute of Design? An introduction

Mon Mar 11, 2019

Photo courtesy of Institute of Design


You’ve heard about them and their relocation to the Mies Campus as part of the Kaplan Institute’s opening. Maybe you’ve even taken a cursory look at the building’s second floor to see their workspaces and classes in session. But still, as an undergraduate student, you find yourself wondering what is the Institute of Design (ID) and what does its presence on the Mies Campus bring to Illinois Tech?

ID is one of the eight academic colleges that comprise the Illinois Institute of Technology, alongside more familiar names for undergraduates such as the Armour of College of Engineering and the College of Science. Unlike these colleges, however, ID only offers graduate-level programs in design, masters programs and a Ph.D.  

But what exactly do these programs entail? What exactly is “design?” As the official website explains, the modern world is one in which constant evolutions in technology, society, and the environment cause change to happen faster than ever before. Thus, design thinking looks to offer “strategic thinking, new ways of acting, and methods proven effective in creating opportunities and leading change.”

ID’s curriculum looks to instill the ability to solve real-world problems from a human-centered and systemic way, focusing on both the theory and method with plenty of opportunity for both hands-on application and contextual understanding. “This is ID. Founded on the belief that design connects and enhances every aspect of life, building toward a more sustainable future.”

Historically, ID has its roots in a German art school known as the Staatliches Bauhaus (Bauhaus), which was operational from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus arose out of Germany’s defeat in World War I (WWI) and the subsequent period of political leadership under the Weimar Republic. During this period, Germany experienced a new wave of artistic expression. One of the creations of this wave was the Bauhaus, marked by its absence of ornamentation and the natural harmony between function and design of the subject (a building or otherwise). To really help make the connection here, one of the directors of the Bauhaus from 1930 to 1933 was an architect by the name of Mies van der Rohe.

The rise of the Nazi regime in Germany saw the Bauhaus forcibly closed, painted as a center of communist intellectualism. Thus, its staff spread all over the world, continuing to spread its underlying ideals. One of these members, László Moholy-Nagy, would establish a school known as the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937, later becoming part of Illinois Tech in 1949 as the first institution in the U.S. to offer a Ph.D. in design.

Now, with the opening of the Kaplan Institute, ID is as close as it possibly can be to the Illinois Tech undergraduate population. This article represents just one of many ways that these two populations will hopefully be able to better integrate and collaborate their educational development, as well as being the first in a series of articles exploring ID and its rich history and offerings.



Photo courtesy of Institute of Design



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Appears in
2019 - Spring - Issue 7