A ton of questions from a high school student.

Hello. Firstly I’m going to warn you that this is a long read, and that a large portion of it doesn’t relate directly to ID. All replies and advice are extremely appreciated though.

I’d like to first give you a brief background. I’m a high school student (at a school outside of Pittsburgh, PA) who just finished
junior (11th) year, and I’m having a difficult time choosing a major/career and a college to go with it. I’ve always been an avid fan of
video games and I’m leaning towards going into that industry. It’s the creative, design, and storytelling aspects of it that I’m attracted to,
along with the future of technology in that field.

Anyway, if you’re wondering how this applies to industrial design, I am not sure on what to major in. I’m more interested in the design aspect
of video games, as opposed to art or programming, and this pretty much means that a particular degree isn’t necessary. Simply having a degree in something along with a talent/original work for game design is enough to get your foot in the door.

As I stated earlier, I’m from Pittsburgh, and a really big fan of the University of Pittsburgh. My dad lives about 2 miles away, so I’d be able to live there.
It’s significantly cheaper than most other schools considering that my living expenses and tuition would be cheaper, and I also love the area.

Basically, I’m looking for a major that interests me and can provide a backup just in case. I’ve always loved building things, but I’m more interested in larger areas, more than smaller things / products. But architecture is out (too oversaturated and it’s a 5-year intense program) and I’m not sure what else there is, other than landscape
architecture (which is a possiblity, but I’m not crazy about botany, etc.) I know that’s not really this site’s forte, but I figured you may have an idea.

So, my questions are the following:

  1. Can you direct me to websites/books that can give me more information about Industrial design and if it’s what I’m interested in?
  2. How would what I learn in an industrial design program apply to game design? I realize most won’t know, but what basic principles are learned in ID that apply to other design-based occupations?
  3. What other majors are there that are design related besides architecture, ID, landscape, etc, and do you know of any that are in schools around Pittsburgh? Even something not directly design related would be still interesting. I’m considering Urban studies at the moment, which doesn’t really relate at all, but still haven’t decided anything.


    I’m hesitant to go to a school for ID, considering that it would end up being more expensive (I could probably get into CarnegieMellonU after 2 years of Pitt) and ultimately it doesn’t make that much of a difference in my ultimate goal of game design.

Thanks for all responses.

ID skills lend well towards certain aspects of game design. It trains you to be able to understand and realize objects that can hop easily from the page to whatever 3D program the game companies happen to be building vehicles, buildings, and characters in. These are relatively small industries that are very competetive though, so you probably want to focus on getting the best training possible unless you are exceptionally talented. So, if you really want to do it, try to go to a school that will really bust your butt and provide top notch competition.

Good luck with your choice.

Go to a Community College and take your Gen Ed classes there. During that time you’ll probably figure out what you’re really looking for and save loads of money as well. Afterwards, tranfer your units to your desired design school.

As a person who spent 6 years designing Quake Mods (is Quake too old for you youngsters? :laughing: ) I was introduced to ID by a person who DOES design games for a living. They started out at CCS in Detroit as a transportation design major, then after working at GM went to Sony, Rockstar, and probably a few other game companies doing 3D models of cars for a bunch of different games. Now he’s the art director at a subsidary studio of THQ.

Point is - once you learn the basics of design you can really do what you want with it. I was actually very interested in going into game design or 3D animation when I was at school. A few professors kicked my ass and now I work full time as a product designer and truly enjoy it.

Game design can be a tough field. A lot of junior level jobs means you’ll wind up spending most of your time 3D modelling barrels and street signs, while senior level people spend their time creating the characters and environments. Another big problem is game design really doesn’t involve any specific training. Look online - there are hundreds of people on sites like cgtalk.com that are INCREDIBLY talented and yet can barely find work. Game design is more about learning the tools - rather then the skills.

Industrial design on the other hand is about learning the skills. How to draw, how to communicate, how to research, and most importantly how to solve problems.

You can find ID graduates in a variety of fields ranging from interaction and experience design (user interfaces), graphic design, web design, automotive design, product design, exhibit design, etc.

If you’re anything like I was you may find you’ll have your mind changed from the time you go into school to the time you leave. I ALWAYS wanted to design cars and once I finally had a project with GM I realized I NEVER wanted to deal with the automotive industry again.

If I were you I’d see if your parents were willing to take you on a tour of some ID schools. Sometimes actually getting to see the work that happens in a design studio is much more impressive then reading about it in a book. The design studio is a bit of a magical place where students jacked up on Red Bull manage to create some amazing things at 3am. I can also tell you some of the most fun I had in school was always in the studio.