Update: IDM Curriculum Development

By Matt Kressy, Director, Integrated Design & Management

Editor’s note: The following is a snapshot of the curriculum under development for SDM’s new sister track, Integrated Design & Management (IDM). We wanted to share the vision as we design and build the program for the inaugural cohort entering this fall, but readers should keep in mind that curriculum details and requirements will continue to evolve. For the latest information, visit idm.mit.edu.


The IDM core curriculum combines the inspired, intuitive methods taught in the world’s best art and design schools with the systematic, analytical methods of the world’s best engineering and business schools. In this spirit, IDM is offered jointly by MIT’s School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, and its graduation requirements reflect a balance of design, engineering, and management. IDM graduates earn a master of science degree in engineering and management conferred by MIT.

The IDM environment—ID Lab

The Integrated Design Lab (ID Lab) will be a physical space, an intellectual resource, and a state of mind—an immersive environment that inspires individual IDM students and IDM teams to create, to fail, to flourish, to succeed, and to support each other steadily throughout the process.

As a physical entity, ID Lab will be a maker space, i.e. a design studio environment with state-of-the-art tools such as 3D printers and robotic arms. A materials and methods instructor who is expert in all tools, fabrication methods, and material uses will provide group and individual instruction. The continuity afforded by dedicated ID Lab space will enable students to build prototypes and return to them later, quickly re-immerse themselves, and iterate as needed—all necessary steps to creating great products and businesses.

The IDM curriculum

Offering a powerful combination of state-of-the-art design, business, and engineering methodologies, the IDM curriculum will be:

  • taught by MIT faculty who will provide in-depth instruction on the product development/product design process;
  • supplemented with lectures by successful entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, and thought leaders who will share their experience, insight, and expertise; and
  • enhanced by IDM students as they learn to present their passions, concepts, rationales, and solutions professionally.

Tentative ID Lab schedule

IDM-required activities (two days/week):

  • Faculty lectures
  • Design workshops
  • Team project work
  • Guest lectures

Other degree requirements (three days/week):

  • Engineering and management foundation courses and electives
  • Work in ID Lab

Students may also have the chance to intern at top innovation companies and to work on design-related consulting projects.

IDM components

Sample IDM core lecture topics:

  • opportunity identification
  • user needs research
  • user experience
  • product specification
  • creative concept generation
  • concept selection
  • industrial design
  • prototyping strategy
  • economics of product design and development
  • environmental sustainability
  • intellectual property
  • product architecture
  • design leadership
  • risk management

Sample ID Lab workshop topics:

  • hand tools
  • power tools
  • machine tools
  • 3D printing
  • composites
  • laminates and forming
  • sketch modeling
  • CNC (computer numerically controlled) milling
  • user interface and user experience (UI/UX)
  • wireframes
  • thermoforming
  • mold making and casting

Team project activities may include:

  • Practicing product and business development processes using tools discussed in lectures
  • Receiving real-time feedback from faculty via informal design reviews;
  • Working on team building, brainstorming, and strategy
  • Engaging users—through interviews, observation, needs lists, personas, and image boards
  • Generating concepts—through sketching, modeling, rendering, wireframing, and storyboarding
  • Testing—using functional, emotional, market, business model, and selection techniques
  • Receiving formal design reviews

IDM projects

  • Student-generated or industry-sponsored project topics can be either tangible, three-dimensional hardware products or software or web-based products that offer solutions to societal problems. Major projects will lead to thesis topics, with the intent of a business launch.
  • IDM partners will have a dedicated, ongoing relationship with the program. They will be welcome to spend time in the ID Lab, attend design reviews, mentor students, and bring real-world perspectives to campus. IDM partners will be encouraged to engage in any projects in which they see potential through collaboration, licensing, or investment.

IDM partners

  • have a dedicated, intimate, ongoing collaboration with IDM
  • spend time in the ID Lab
  • attend design reviews
  • invest in student projects of their choice
  • get right-of-first-offer on products and intellectual property, subject to student interest and negotiated price
  • have priority access to hiring IDM graduates

M.S. requirements

  • IDM core with ID Lab: 38 units (required)
  • Management and engineering foundations: 12+ units each (required)
  • Engineering and design electives: 15+ units (required)
  • Management and leadership electives: 15+ units (required)
  • Internship (optional)
  • Consulting (optional)
  • Thesis: 24 units (required)

IDM program options

  • 13 months full time, on campus


  • 21 months part time, on/off campus


In the fall semester, students taking the 13-month option

  • arrive in mid-August for a “boot camp”/orientation;
  • participate in a three-week project in the IDM core to familiarize themselves with IDM’s product development process and philosophy;
  • engage in a four-week project, repeating the above process so that it becomes familiar;
  • participate in a final project near the semester’s end, working on it in great detail; and
  • make final presentations in which their products are demonstrated to fellow students, faculty, potential investors, and the general public.

During the one-month Independent Activities Period (IAP) session, students

  • manufacture 100 units of product to be offered for purchase at a sales gala open to fellow students, potential investors, and the public.

In the spring semester students taking the 13-month option

  • put what they have learned into practice for a major project that spans 28 weeks;
  • participate in another end-of-semester gala open to potential investors and the general public;
  • offer products for sale;
  • complete interdisciplinary theses based on their projects;
  • participate in consulting engagements and recruitment/hiring activities; and
  • join MIT SDM-IDM’s lifelong learning community of alumni, students, and industry partners.

IDM’s 21-month option is still under development.

Matt Kressy