Advice about getting into ID

I have read a lot of people saying, “If you want to get into ID, you need to go back to school and get this degree and get that degree. . .” and what I am wondering is can much of this education be gained by diving in and learning by DOING.

I recently finished my MBA and also have a BS in mathematics and another in mechanical engineering and am interested in starting an ID company with a physicist and a business manager. We absolutely DO NOT want to go back to school and we are willing to struggle for a while as we stumble up the learning curve.

What do you think?? I don’t learn by listening to lectures. I learn by brainstorming, building, breaking, and repeating until I am successful.

If I were to bend a little and take a few select courses or training seminars (preferred) what topics would you recommend?? By that I mean, what skills or knowledge (that can be learned in a classroom) are most critical?

Thanks for any info.


Take an AA in ID or something. That way, it will at least give you the basics. It will only take you 3 semesters. Man, you have a lot of degree. Why not apply as a creative director or marketing or as an engineer or CAD operator for a design firm only for maybe a couple of years? This will at least give you the knowledge on how a design firm operates.

Or you should have taken a Masters in Design Management instead of an MBA. But too late now.

If you’re starting an ID company and you have those other positions covered, I’d say hire a designer, there are plenty of them looking for work. You’ll learn from them (if you let them breathe), and vice versa. And it’ll help your company become active early, instead of potentially missing opps while trying to pick up ID on your own. Just my 2, seems pretty simple.

Probably would have been smart to study ID instead of getting my MBA, but I had not even cosidered getting into ID until I was part way through the program. I spent a lot of time during my MBA just sketching out product ideas in my notes thinking, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great to just design industrial stuff?? I wonder who does that??” DUH. It wasn’t until I took a product design class and spent a day at Ziba Design in Portland that my eyes opened wide and I thought, “Oh, wow!!”

I am actually a high school teacher right now so I have the summer time in which I can begin to explore this arena. Thanks for your thoughts. If you have any others, I would love to hear them.


Your passion and excitement really comes through. I would think about it from a potential clients perspective, you have no portfolio of previous work to show, no experience or training in the field, and they are going to pay you to learn on their project which they will then invest millions of dollars in to put into production?

My recomendation would be to not start a company right away. If you don’t want to go back to school (totally understandable) try to see if there is a local design group that you can apprentice under for for awhile. Personally I learned more in my first year of working than I did in 4 years of school, but I would not have learned anything without the guidence of the experienced designers I was working for.

If you are in the Portland area there a lots of design firms you can try.

I think Skinny’s sugestion to hire a designer was also good. I would hire a designer with a minimum of 3 years experience. If you hire a designer right out of school you will be short changing their on the job education as well as not maximizing what you could get out of it.

It’s an ambitious plan, having worked for a consultancy for about 5 years I can tell you it’s not a romantic as it sounds. You have to be willing to take on crap projects to keep food on the table and spend money wining and dining the big clients to squeaze work out of them. A big client will have design firms from all over the globe competing for work, so a good firm will be able to differntiate itself in someway from the clutter, provide superior service, and great design from the first sketch.

Really I think the quickest path would be to take two years and get some training, but go for it man, best of luck.

Hey Ryan,

I speak from experience when I say starting an ID company without any formal ID training is going to cost you and your business partners big cash and lots of head/heartaches. Imagine starting an engineering firm without any knowledge of engineering! ID is not about drawing pretty objects on a computer and handing them off to manufacturers. ID is all about understanding process, both the design process and every conceivable manufacturing process out there. ID is a tough gig, even for those with the basic grasp of ID learned in school. For those without any formal training it is a burning fiery hell, take it from me Ryan it will not be fun!

ROCK-ON casper!

Thanks to everyone for their assistance and their comments. After reading and reesarching and thinking and stressing, I realized I don’t want to be in ID at all. . .I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to create, but in reality, I don’t have the artistic skills and/or stylistic vision to finalize a product. For that end, I’ll be hiring a designer (or maybe an intern. . .anyone want to work for Kramerica??).

Anyhow, I’m new to all this stuff and you’ve helped me realize how little I know. I’ll keep listening and hope I always get as much positive (and negative) feedback. Thanks again.


LOL, Kramerica…took me a second to get it. I think you’re making the right decision. Let someone who’s already developed tough skin struggling through crits and getting bashed take on that work. You dont’ want to go through that while trying to start something new and trying to keep rent paid. Good luck to you.

I think the best ID firms are those that have a strong business side as well. many have business teams. Find yourself a seasoned proffessional designer to handle managing the design team you will have if it takes off. You could enter a limited partniship with that person to avoid the overhead of a big salary upfront and tiy both of your paychecks to business performance.

Bet of luck bro.

Hey Ryan,
My name is Ryan as well and I am an industrial designer, so why don’t you hire me as your other half and I can half half your maoney as well…what kind of car do you drive?