Advice for Student

I recently got accepted into the industrial design program at Auburn University. At the moment I am in some lower level courses mostly covering the basic principles of design. I am really enjoying classes and am excited become even more submersed into the program.

I want to get a good job in the field and I understand that what I do as a student will effect my future job prospects. I anticipate graduating in the winter of 2017/ fall of 2018 so I have about 2 -2 1/2 years to work on my skills, portfolio, ect. My question really is what are some things that I should do/focus on now that will help me land a job when I graduate? Is there anything that you know now that you wish you would have known as a student? If any of you are employers, what do you look for in a potential employee?

Additional information: I have read through this forum and found that many people talk about having a focus, as an early student I do not have one but would love to find one down the road. I am primarily interested in going into industry but am not opposed to the idea of teaching down the road (I understand that this would require some additional schooling).

Thanks for reading and I look forward to some feedback!

First off congrats on getting accepted.

I wouldn’t worry to much about the focus thing at this stage.
An open mind and being ready to experiment should be more important while you start your journey.
This ensures you are getting an all round foundation to design.

Nothing wrong with being aware of this though so that when you stumble upon a project or subject matter that interests you especially, you recognize it and can have this influence the rest of your educational path.

Kudos for even finding this site! You can learn a great deal from the forums alone. As far as any advice, I personally would suggest trying to land as many internships as you can, they are invaluable! The work flow in a real World setting can vary greatly from school. My first internship was pretty easy and mild (training wheels). However, the second internship was intense and basically had to hit the ground running. I was very stressed out at first, but learned straight away to optimize my time.

I would also consider what type of products interest you the most. If your leaning more towards hard goods, program wise I would try to learn proficiency in Autodesk/Keyshot right away. If your leaning more towards soft goods, I would stick to Adobe’s creative Suite as well as take SEWING & FASHION courses! Learn to get hands on with whatever you like to do. The computer and drawing pad or great tools but can only get you so far. Lastly, love what you do!

The single most important piece of advice I can give you is to get at least two internships while you are a student. Do whatever it takes, but get some work experience. It will do several things for you:

  1. it will help you to focus your studies
  2. it will show you what you need to learn
  3. it will give you a sense of the appropriate level to be working at as a professional
  4. it will expose you to different types of design specializations (if you do more than 1)

Get an internship. Offer to job shadow. Buy designers coffee. Get to know the professional wold of design. The academic world of design is just the tip of the iceberg. Your education will continue for years.

I also suggest internships. It’s the best route and will also help you figure out your focus.

While in school build your foundation as much as possible.

  1. Sketching
  2. Solidworks
  3. Mechanical Aptitude…take products apart. Then sketch them and model them in Solidworks.

Also, visit these design sites regularly and form opinions on products/design trends/what you like/dislike and WHY.


I have been reading all of your comments and appreciate the feedback! Any advice on how to get internships (beyond just applying haha). For example, it would be great to get an internship this summer, but I do not have a lot of work and beyond just doing the assignments that I have in class (which are, at the moment, pretty abstract). I would like to spend some time doing some outside work, but do not know if I could focus in a direction that could land me an internship. I have seen a post on Auburn’s bulletin board about a summer internship at Vans (the shoe company) I feel like that would be a cool experience if I could get it.

Hi, Luke!

I graduated from Auburn this past May. As much as I enjoyed my experience and am fond of the faculty, the program isn’t super helpful in finding internships/jobs. There are a few employers that come around and interview, but they’re pretty few and far between.

I actually didn’t intern prior to graduation, but landed a spot as a junior ID just prior to graduation. However, this was not the case for the majority of people in my graduating class. You will need to find and apply for internships/positions yourself. Indeed is good, coroflot is good, but branch out and look at companies you admire, too (and look for more than just the big companies!).

The program is good in terms of what and how is teaches, BUT there is one main flaw I disagree with – portfolio isn’t taught until senior year. Start documenting your work now. Get in the habit of photographing stuff. Document process. I got my DSLR about halfway through the semester you’re in, and it definitely helped with documenting.

Don’t just document, though! Get into building your portfolio. It’s hard, but the professors will help. Just remember it’s much easier to get advice and help when you have something to show. You’re still early in the program, so it probably won’t be super pretty, but as Jake the Dog says, “suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” I spent two years really insecure about my work, and it kept me from showing it to potential employers. Don’t be me.

Read the portfolio handbook!

Your spring semester will be much less abstract, but the fundamentals from fall will be key! Talk to professors! Document your stuff! Take criticism and apply it! Unfortunately, the fall assignments aren’t much to look at design-wise. The spring projects are much better, but it makes it all the more difficult (and nigh impossible) to apply to places for summer. If you have any connections, use them.

Also, I know Auburn is pretty isolated. It sucks. It makes talking to professional designers that much harder. But, find opportunities to GET OUT. Go to Atlanta, go to conferences; if you’re into furniture, take the furniture studio and go to High Point. Don’t get stuck in the vacuum that Auburn can be.

Good luck, man. Enjoy your time there!

I would definitely suggest trying to find out as much as possible from working designers. This will give you insight into their day to day roles, what’s expected etc.

Develop your communication skills as this will be key to working effectively with others. Keep exploring your design style, and keep polishing those skills!