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Martin Thaler

Associate Professor of Product and Environment Design & Studio and Fabrication Director

Marty Thaler working with students

“Building physical prototypes is a way of thinking as a designer, whether you end up designing objects, communications, strategies or services.”


Martin Thaler is an Associate Professor of Practice focused on Product and Environment Design. He has taught product design and environmental design at the Institute of Design (ID) full-time since 2008. Keenly interested in the fundamentals of design, he provides students with real world opportunities in hospitals, schools, businesses, and other institutions from which they can experience how design can make a difference in people’s lives.

Martin has a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a master of fine arts from the Royal College of Art in London.

Activities at ID

Martin has taught and developed course content for graduate-level classes in industrial and environmental design, with sponsors including Capital One, Worthington Industries, Logitech, Target, Eataly, Zenblen, Cast21, Vivotronics, and Urban Juncture. Since 2015, Martin has led student teams on the six-week Taiwan Immersion Program (TIP) sponsored by the Far Eastern Group where students work on design and planning projects within the internal design group, DRIVE.

Industry Experience

In 2014, Martin and Sung Jang established the design consulting firm Article Inc. Previously, Martin led multidisciplinary teams at the global design company IDEO’s Chicago office for companies in the consumer electronics, medical, and furniture industries for 12 years. His work for clients, including Motorola, Lilly, Steelcase, Baxter, DaimlerChrysler, Gateway, McDonald’s, and Nanosphere, has resulted in designs that successfully blend user, technology, and business needs. In 1985, he co-founded with David Gresham the award-winning consulting firm Design Logic in Chicago; their clients included Bang & Olufsen, Dictaphone, and View-Master. Before that, he served as Senior Industrial Designer at ITT Corporation in Stratford, CT (1983–84), and he also worked as an independent consultant in New York (1982–83), at GAF Corporation in New York (1981–82), at Siemens Corporation in Munich (1979–80), and at JL Barrault in Paris (1978–79).

Speaking and Publishing

Martin’s invited speaking roles and panel sessions include “Lotopia: A Future of Making Products Locally” (Global Innovation Forum on Technology and Society, Harbin, China, 2016); “Kickstarting: Changing How Innovation Happens” (Harbin Institute of Technology, 2015); Innovation and Design Thinking Module 4 (CEDIM, Monterrey, Mexico, 2014); and Design Thinking Workshop (Far Eastern Group, Taipei, Taiwan, 2014). Martin’s work has been exhibited and published in books and periodicals including BlueprintCasa Vogue, and Time. Martin’s work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Recent Work

Thaler, Martin, Sung Jang, and Mathew Frederick. 2020. 101 Things I Learned in Product Design School. New York: Crown Publishers.

Thaler, Martin. 2019. “Bauhaus Products for Our Time,” in Bauhaus Futures, edited by Laura Forlano, Molly Wright Steenson, and Mike Annany. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.