30 and no design experience...

i graduated with a BA in ID about 5 years ago, but since then, have not had a single job in the industry. the college i went to at that time had just started their Industrial Design program, and so there was a sort of limbo in which they were still trying to decide what to teach and what elements to incorporate. The end result is that I feel like I was caught during a transitional phase where designers were using markers and where designers were learning all these different computer programs. Long story short, no job means no experience…but I need the job to get any experience. my question is, what are my options? How can I get in, and where? what should my strategy be?

Right now, I’m entering design contests and using them in my portfolio. Besides that, I don’t know what else to do. Do 30-year old interns even exist, or should I just know when to fold 'em? Would going back to school help me, and if it did, what would someone with a BA in ID go back to school for in order to augment whatever skills were previously learned?

It’s extremely depressing to think that I may have to give up my dream, but I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m willing to do anything just to get my foot in the door, but I just don’t know if offering to work/intern for free would even be something companies would take seriously…especially considering my age.

Any and all help, guidance and direction would be greatly appreciated.

I just took a look at your Coroflot portfolio and sketching blog. My first thought is that your actual sketches are nice. Good line work and energy. Proportions might need some work but a sketch is a sketch. Its about emotion and expressing an idea. I would say that your renderings take a step back though. They are either overworked or appear plastic, almost as if two different designers are working on your sketches and renderings. The sketches are so much more confident than the renderings.

As to your professional question, I would first ask what do you want to do? Work at a footwear company? Design Consultancy? Consumer electronics? Anything? Figuring out what you want is the most important thing. Beyond that you need to start to meet people in those industries and at those companies. Honestly I dont think you’re ever too old to be an intern. Everyone has to start somewhere.

It’s all in how you present yourself.

Before I could even look at your work on coroflot I had to get by your “Catch 22” headline. It just reads as “woe-is me”. Take control of your career and be positive. That statement paints a poor picture of you from the get go. I would also be interested to see how you’re applying for jobs, how you put together your portfolios. If you just slam together some sketches and flat renderings I totally understand why you haven’t gotten the interest you’d like.

This job is simple and hard all at the same time. All you have to do is design something good and present it in a compelling way. You’re sketches are confident, your renderings are weak and I have no idea how you are laying your stuff out but based on your coroflot portfolio its not that dynamic.

Take a long hard work at your projects and find ways to express your concepts in a more compelling and organized way. You don’t have to be over the top but you need to be meaningfully unique. If you haven’t looked at the portfolio guide that the 2012 senior class at DAAP put t0gether I would recommend that you do. If you have seen it go through it again with a fine tooth comb.

Reading your post I felt compelled to give you some constructive criticism. I think it sucks to feel stuck in a rut. I really think you need to stay humble and be very critical of your work and how you present yourself to potential employers.

Hope this helps. Best of luck.

I came out of school in a similar position, from an outdated program that wasn’t keeping up with industry norms. If I hadn’t lucked out by nabbing an internship w an alumnus also from the program I’d be nowhere. So, maybe reach out to alumni in similar fields (ME, graphic design, etc) for advice or possible jobs.

In the larger scheme of things, this seems symptomatic of ‘college as moneymaking opp’, offering design programs bc it’s the profitable thing these days, without any support for new grads.

Keep your chin up.

thanks for the advice and criticism, it’s always welcome because i know it’s given to point me in the right direction.

daaphearthrob: thanks, that’s the kind of stuff i need to hear. i’ve been told that the difference between my sketching and rendering is like night and day, but i just don’t know what to work on. i mean, i can take a photoshop class, but it just doesn’t teach you rendering skills specific to footwear. i’ve gone mainly on what the tutorials on core77 have taught me, but i guess i don’t do them justice.

in terms of what i’d like to do, i’ve always had a passion for footwear, so much so that i feel like i’ve pigeonholed myself into that area specifically. i mean, i recently had an interview with a cycling company who was looking for a junior footwear designer, but since all my stuff was basketball related, they felt it wasn’t a good fit. i would love to get any experience i could, but i feel like my portfolio screams “footwear and footwear only!”. i guess i need more variety in my content.

you’re right about my title…i guess my frustration subconsciously seeped through. thanks for pointing that out.

slippyfish: thanks for the support. i feel like the longer i go without an actual design job of any sort, the more irrelevant i’ll be due to the ever-growing field and all the new programs being utilized.

anyway, thanks for the responses. i always appreciate any kind of advice on my work, situation or if you want to dole out some harsh criticism, i would love to hear it all.

If footwear is what you want to do go all out. Don’t worry about pigeon holing yourself. Why try to keep your options open if what you really want is to do shoes? I spent the early part of my career at consulting firms because I wanted to be well rounded and because I didnt know what I really wanted to do and I liked the variety. Now I’m starting to focus my interests a bit more. If footwear is what you want to do go after it whole heartedly.

As for the rendering style… just like sketching: practice practice practice. Start looking at other people’s renderings… closely. Try and emulate the styles you like. Even if its not a tutorial, look at renderings you like, think about what steps they probably went through to achieve their look. And remember less is more. I think your biggest problem is that your renderings look over worked. You’re trying to achieve realism but you also want subtly and contrast.

Regarding the cycling interview: PUT SOME CYCLING CONCEPTS IN YOUR PORTFOLIO! Don’t expect people to look at your work and figure out how it translates to their world. You need to sell that to people. Tailor your portfolio to your audience. Every time I interview somewhere new I put together an entirely new portfolio. I sub in and out projects that present my skills in the best possible way for that company. If you have a hole in your portfolio, work on the weekend to make up a new project.

When I was in college I would redo my entire portfolio every quarter. I would tear down every project I did, I would make up projects entirely. If I thought I needed say a housewares project in my book, I’d spend a few nights doing a side project.

I don’t think it would hurt for you to go back do some cycling stuff and re apply to that cycling job. Even if they’ve filled the spot it shows initiative and the fact that you’re willing to grow. And the activity of reapplying will help change your approach to whatever opportunities and interviews you have in the future.

Whether you go and take a photoshop class or not I think it would be good for you to put yourself in some competitively positive situations. By that I mean being a studio (whether its at school or work or whatever) and being around other designers is the best way to get better. Post shit on Sketch-Fu thread, hook up with some old classmates and share your work. Anything to put yourself in a situation where you are putting yourself out there and reacting to other people’s work. Getting better takes repetition and practice, but there is also something to be said about a bit of osmosis.

Interesting insight. Are these the requirements for an Industrial Design internship? What about manufacturing constraints, engineering requirements, product lifecycle and the business case behind your design (i.e will the way you made your design look actually bring in profit, and how?)

Just based on the description that you gave me, it seems that the requirement for an internship in ID is to be a good artist and be good at presenting your concept graphically. Am I right in saying this or is there more to putting together a good portfolio?

An intern is not going to understand how manufacturing works. That would be a stange expectation for someone with only academic experience. I would expect the intern to be curious about it and at least be making some intelligent assumptions on how things are made, and that would be shown in sketches, renderings, and prototypes.

Do you mean logistics (i.e. an intern won’t know to contact person A who we use in China to get part B made out of material C because we’ve used A for years and A knows what we want)?

or do you mean materials and methods (i.e. a glass living hinge looks great in a render but can’t be made)?

I had job interviews for a year-long paid ID placement and I was expected to have an understanding of how to make a part in SolidWorks that could be ready for manufacture. I also had to know the market for the company’s product and propose a brief project plan of how to deliver the product to production. Strangely enough, the aesthetic and conceptual side of things was not investigated in great detail.

Maybe it’s slightly different in USA, but I’d well advise the OP to have a broad knowledge about the product design process - not just be good at sketching! My 2 cents :smiley:


I have had a few portfolios from your alma mater come across my desk in the past few years and like you said the school has been in quite an identity crisis for a while. This is unfortunate because they are promising you a degree but not keeping things up to date puts you at a disadvantage after graduation. At the last NE IDSA conference I stayed up until 3 am talking to a group of about 10 students from your school discussing just this topic. They will get there in time, but there needs to bee quite a few changes to make that happen.

Like many above have mentioned you do have some great skills. What you truly need is focus. I am going to echo the suggestion to do some personal projects, but don’t just sketch out cool products. Put some well thought out design exploratories. What we want to see is how you think. You obviously have the skills, we can see that, but what we do not see is how you solve problems.

As far as how you “break in”. Use your connections. I saw work for HS Design in your portfolio. There are some great people in that studio. I know a few of them myself. Reach out to them. I am sure Tor, Mike, and a few others would at least take a phone call and give you some advice. Actually the way I met the leader at that firm are just that. My parents lived around the corner and I called them on day to come in and take a look at my portfolio. I was still in school and after graduation decided medical wasn’t for me, but still keep in touch to this day. The good new is there are few adjuncts from there at your school, and they are very we connected in the NJ/NY area.

Good luck and keep us updated.


I mean not understand exactly how a part comes out of a mold, what b-side features might be necessary, not understand the full assembly process and so on. As an intern, I expect a little green-ness. That naiveté is what might drive a fresh solution on the team. We already have experts, and that noob will evolve into an expert over 8-10 years time.

sounds like the places you looked at are using interns to do full billable work… we put our interns on real projects, but the expectations in terms of output and time are a little different as is the level of mentorship and guidance through the process.

Do what you need to, to do what you want. So if you want to make sneakers, save some cash then get a juki (sewing machine you see in any footage of sweatshops :unamused: ) then put out some stuff. Just do your thing. it will not be easy.

Being a student in the first class of the IndD program at my school I find myself going to other career days to find companies that might be interested in hiring me. I’ve gone to engineering career fairs and chosen companies that are related to some degree to my passion. It sounds like you just need to take the extra step and initiative. I’m currently looking for an internship myself and I’ve gathered a fairly decent list (that I need to send out applications for this month) of companies as it’s one of two requirements from a total of 3 options that we need to do in order to graduate. (sponsored project, internship, study abroad)

As far as the whole cycling job you discussed, make some sketches and renderings and go back! Show your interest (again) and how you’re still able to learn quickly and adjust.

Can’t comment too much more simply being a student still… but I really like reading this thread so far myself :slight_smile:

Lots of good advice on here. adding some of my own, im very close in age to you and i work with my company in recruiting efforts with college students as well as a bit of teaching so I think i have a pretty good idea of what the successful students are doing (at least in my geographic region).

first, all your footwear stuff does have that basketball type feel to it, that fault of yours is killing that santana shoe, as well as an overly ornate graphic layout (its so busy and crowded). One of the ‘happy accidents’ that happened to me was that in college i was totally enamored with athletic footwear and basketball shoes, but i got an internship with a company that did nothing of that sort. It forced me to learn about other types of shoes and use my athletic ‘design language’ as merely an ingredient that I could ‘sprinkle in’ when necessary. But knowing about the materials, lasts, and traditions in non-athletic shoes was huge for me growing as a footwear designer. Work on being able to do all types of footwear so that they look market appropriate, and not just the 'stylerizal athletic-y version of whatever type you are designing. and IMO just stay away from basketball… that would be the thing that is pigeon holing you more than anything else.

Im also noticing proportion issues on many of your shoes/renderings. the proportions on your lebron shoe look the most appropriate and pretty good to me. the others are either too flat, toe too rounded, too full throughout, not enough shape, etc. those are small tweaks that HAVE to be corrected if any employers or other professional designers are going to look at your work.

also agreed that your sketches have a nice feel and look to them, but your not gaining much when you go to rendering. IMO your renderings are ‘neither here nor there’, by which i mean they are not ‘real looking’ enough to accurately convey materials, in turn giving me more information about the shoe, on the other hand the renderings are not ‘loose’ enough to be a sketch rendering that just brings the design to life more with color and some textures.

if you want to do shoes definitely focus there and don’t worry about pigeon holes, i was turned down an internship in school because they could tell that i clearly wanted a career in footwear and not in their field, and i couldn’t argue with that.

Step1: Buy a cintiq
Step2: Get sketchbook
Step3: Practice your ass off.
Step4: Get solidworks
Step5: Do all the built in tutorials
Step6: Do all the tutorials over at productdesignforums.com
Step7: Get a lot of rum and coke and do nothing but solidworks for a few weeks and learn how to surface