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step three
step three
Posts: 103
Joined: November 4th, 2008, 1:11 am
Location: Scottsdale, AZ, USA
So, to be the antithesis of all the "I do this-or-that and want to become an industrial designer" threads, here's my "I'm done with pursuing a career in industrial design... design in general, actually" thread. Yay.

Lifelong story short: I got to the point where I was working as an (the, rather) industrial designer for a consumer product company here in Arizona, which went belly up and we all got laid off back in May of '16. :( I busted my ass there. Learned so much about the consumer product market. Worked with product development, R&D, market research, marketing, trade, legal, engineering & manufacturing. Conceptualized and designed our (electromechanical) products, packaging, trade displays, etc. (along with a slew of other job duties). It was a start-up sized company with a fairly flat hierarchy and zero redundancy... but was also one of the biggest ones in the segment, which made it a perfect environment for cutting my teeth, so to speak, in the corporate design process. But here I am again, nine-months unemployed and not a single job lead that's gone anywhere. I've only found about three ID positions to even apply to in that amount of time. Frankly, I think I'm done with all of this. :x It's no way to live.

After quitting my job as a sales engineer/production manager at a laser machine shop in 2008, I spent four-and-a-half years unemployed until the last gig came around. I did some freelance projects here-and-there, a bunch of stuff that was graphic design (something I never wanted to be but some people think I'm good at for some reason), mainly for web, but overall this career path has been frustrating, demoralizing, and a tremendous financial strain... a feast-or-famine life, and more famine than feast for sure. I'll be 40 in March, and I barely have any retirement as I've burned through savings any time I've not been working. I've just come to the conclusion that myself and Lady Design weren't meant for each other. I don't know what it is. The people I've worked with have always been more than happy with my work, I've generally exceeded timelines, and over-delivered. Maybe it's my approach to the craft, or my design style, or just my face. Maybe it's all networking as I'm pretty shit at networking. I'm good with people, I just never meet or know the right ones.

Either way, for those who've moved away from ID, and/or had to take the knowledge and skillset elsewhere, where did you go with it? What are we transferable to? Like more-or-less laterally. CAD monkey will probably come up (not really lateral), but is that really it? Frankly, I'm trying to take my breadth of experience and find somewhere else to go with it, ferret out things worth applying for and I just don't know. I've got an education all this experience, but looking for jobs I feel a bit like a high school dropout. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Feel free to ask any questions about myself and my job history.

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step four
step four
Posts: 568
Joined: October 23rd, 2012, 12:22 pm
Location: SoCal
Of all the things I have experienced here in the states, both the good and bad, perhaps my favorite one is the capacity and willingness to reinvent yourself, I think it is pretty much part of this culture and a great thing.

Deciding to stick with something you invested a lot of time but haven't gotten the results you wanted versus starting over is also one of the hardest decisions in life.

What are we transferable to?

I personally think that if designers re-brand themselves to creative problem solvers rather than experts in X or Y tool or technology, then the alternatives just become endless, there is also a combination of what do you want to do and what can you get paid for that can guide you if you are stuck trying to decide your next step.

One of my favorite quotes is that life is just a test, if it was a real life, you would have been given precise instructions on where to go and what to do to be happy and successful, it sometimes helps if you just re frame your current situation as a test, so then you can just try out the next thing you feel is a reasonable direction and start all over again if that doesn't pan out guilt free.

Whatever you choose, I hope your situation improves.
Eugenio (Keno) Leon Linkedin Instagram

"We are surrounded with objects of desire, not objects of use.” Don Norman

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step four
step four
Posts: 575
Joined: January 24th, 2011, 9:04 pm
Location: Maryland
Sorry about the patch you've found yourself in - it's not uncommon in our industry.

You mentioned the previous gig, production mgr /sales engineer - If I were you I might start there, as we are entering a sweet-spot for some manufacturing to pick back up Stateside. Companies like Weathertech, auto industry parts suppliers, appliance manufacturers and HVAC equipment suppliers have kept their US manufacturing efforts since their products aren't ocean-shippable without undue cost.

And while a true CAD hybrid is super-valuable, your shop-floor experience might be very marketable.

Best of luck!
Scott Snider
Partner, Product Development
Generator, inc.
skype: generatewhatsnext

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Posts: 15375
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Location: SoCal
Hi Variant,

I'm sorry you have had such a rough go. Seems like a bad combination of timing and circumstances.

I don't really have any advice, would you be willing to move? I don't know much about the design community in Scottsdale, but I would assume it is not the strongest?


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full self-realization
full self-realization
Posts: 3163
Joined: February 7th, 2006, 11:51 pm
Location: New York
I transitioned to digital products. If you have experience doing more typical graphic design work (which may be the case if you were doing POP or package work) a lot of those skills can transition into a more typical UI/visual design role.

The barrier to entry in designing an app or website is extraordinarily low, and there is a much bigger market. Scottsdale still may not be the epicenter of tech, but you may be able to sneak by building websites for local businesses or using your network of contacts from your ID days to see who might need support on that type of front. Combine that with self taught lessons (or a boot camp/General Assembly-type course) in coding and you'd potentially be able to pivot into using those same basic design thinking skills but applying them to something else.

I can tell you hunting through resumes that there are a lot of applicants who have tried to do the same thing, but almost none of them come from design backgrounds which means you can tell who does/doesn't have an eye for design very quickly.

Posts: 11
Joined: July 14th, 2016, 1:25 pm
I am glad you wrote about your experience, but I am sorry you have had to go through it. What you describe, is what I expect to be the experience for a large majority of industrial designers and grads (I have no proof, just a hunch). It is a really tough industry, not a lot of jobs, even fewer ones that are going to be satisfying.

It has crossed my mind in the past what kind of skills we posses already, and I do think a like of the CAD work is the more transferable, like someone else said. CNC operator or anything similar I can see being an easy transition, but more or less a CAD jockey. Or, if you have had the opportunity to do any type of business plans, you may be able to find a job like a category manager, merchandiser, or project manager. I like the idea of UI/UX, but there would be time needed to develop those skills like coding. But on the flip side it sounds like you have all the experience you need to make a product come to life, do you have any product ideas?

Personally, I started a bit of a more extreme route this year though, in preparation for my departure from the industry..... a 15-18 month Bachelors in Nursing. No more having to go where the jobs are, which has been my biggest gripe.

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step four
step four
Posts: 312
Joined: November 22nd, 2014, 11:05 pm
Location: Florida Bay Area

I'm sure we as a community could give you some advice if we were able to see some examples of your portfolio work.... I personally see dozens of id jobs available.

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