A black and white photo of students in Hin Bredendieck's class in the 1950s.

Industrial Design: The First Steps at Georgia Tech

Industrial Design: The First Steps at Georgia Tech

In 1940, industrial design was a relatively new profession derived from the work of German designers from the Dessau Bauhaus. Georgia Tech's Department of Architecture recognized the impact of industrial design as a discipline and started offering classes that year. The department even hired a professor from the New Bauhaus in Chicago to teach the industrial design courses.

Soon after, though, World War II had a dramatic effect on Georgia Tech. Armed forces enlistment led to a severe decline in the university's enrollment. Fewer students meant that many courses, even whole degree programs were no longer offered. Within the Department of Architecture, industrial design classes were ended.

The end of the war brought students back to Georgia Tech and revived the Architecture department:


  • Opened in 1952, the East Architecture Building included an industrial design lab and shop.
  • Bauhaus and New Bauhaus veteran Hin Bredendieck was hired to lead a new industrial design program that same year.
  • The program's first graduates earned the Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design in 1958.


The Hin Bredendieck Era

Black and white photo of Hin Bredendieck.
Image: College of Design

Hin Bredendieck led the industrial design program at Georgia Tech for 19 years. According to the Industrial Design Society of America, his influence was nationally recognized:

"With Walter Schaer and Eva Pfeil at Auburn, Hin Bredendieck at Georgia Tech and Walter Baerman at North Carolina State, designers often referred to this education triangle as the 'New South.' These design educators brought to the South a new design approach which considered user-centered research a prerequisite for intelligent and responsible product development."

Professor Bredendieck studied at the Dessau Bauhaus in 1927. As a student he collaborated with artist and designer Marianne Brandt on the famous Kandem Bedside Table Lamp. In 1937 he immigrated to the United States to teach at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, Illinois. In 1952 he left Chicago to lead Georgia Tech's industrial design program. 

The curriculum he developed for Georgia Tech took an evolving approach defined by Walter Gropius -- his mentor, friend, and former Director of the Bauhaus -- as “the science of design.” He incorporated new design methods and industry knowledge as quickly as possible, viewing them as a natural progression from Bauhaus.

Bredendieck retired from Georgia Tech in 1971. In 1994, he received the IDSA Education Award for his lifelong commitment to design education. His lecture materials and writings were assembled and published posthumously by the Georgia Tech College of Architecture in 2009 as Beyond Bauhaus: The Evolving Man-Made Environment.

Bauhaus is Fundamental to Industrial Design

Bauhaus was a German art school that was open from 1919 to 1933. Bauhaus is literally translated as "house of construction," and although the school's founder was an architect, Bauhaus focused on design. Its philosophy was to blend all forms of art -- including architecture -- together as one, creating a "craftsman-artist." This was a founding principle of modern design. After the Nazi regime forced the school to close, Bauhaus teachers and artists emigrated to other countries, including the United States. During the 1930s, they influenced design education at universities such as Harvard and Columbia and established the New Bauhaus school in Chicago.


Growing the Program

Students gather in the West Architecture building for an Industrial Design event.
Photo: School of Industrial Design
Students gather in the West Architecture building for an Industrial Design event.

After Bredendieck retired from Georgia Tech in 1973, his successors Jack Seay (1973-1976), Lee Payne (1976-1988) and William Bullock (1988-1999) continued to grow the industrial design program based on Bauhaus educational methods. During Bullock's decade-long tenure as director, undergraduate enrollment tripled. 

Bullock also began the program's focus on collaborative research with initiatives like the Collaborative Product Development Laboratory (CoLab) in 1993. Under Bullock's direction, CoLab generated industry research through multidisciplinary teams from business, design, and engineering backgrounds.

The tenure of program director Lorraine Justice (1999-2003) was marked by national and international prestige: By 2002, the program was selected by Business Week as one of the top design schools in the country. Justice also led the effort to gain a Master of Industrial Design graduate degree for the program, which was approved by the Board of Regents in 2002. Justice was later named one of the top 40 influential designers by ID magazine in 2006.

As program director from 2005 to 2009, Abir Mullick's expertise in universal design established a leading reputation for health and assistive technology design. Campus-wide, Mullick's efforts were complemented by the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (now the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation), a group that the School of Industrial Design still collaborates with to this day.

Moving Forward with Technology

By 2010, the industrial design program was elevated to the School of Industrial Design within the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech. Jim Budd was appointed the first chair of the School. Budd's expertise in human-centered, interactive product design helped the School build strong ties to its engineering and computing counterparts at Georgia Tech.

Budd moved the Industrial Design classrooms from the ground floor of the Architecture West building to the more spacious second floor, creating new studio space for students and research. He founded the Interactive Product Design Laboratory in 2011, a 900-square-foot workshop that supports the exploration and development of sensor-based technologies for portable, wearable, and networked applications.


Top 10 for Design Education in the United States

A professor points as a student wears a virtual reality headset.
Photo: School of Industrial Design
Students learn to design for virtual reality at Georgia Tech.

In 2014 DesignIntelligence, the ranking publication for schools of design and architecture, recognized the School of Industrial Design at Georgia Tech in both of its top 10 lists for design education in the United States. The publication surveyed design firms with the question, “In your firm’s hiring experience, in the past five years, which schools are best preparing students for success in the profession?”  The results: Georgia Tech's undergraduate industrial design program was ranked seventh in the country, and the graduate program was ranked second. 

Have a Question for Us?

If you can't find the information you were looking for, we'll get you to the right place.