Am I asking for the wrong things from design?

Hello everyone!
First off I want to thank you for taking the time to look into the topic I have started here. I have been lurking around, but I wanted to register and ask the community here a question that has been bothering me.

I have been developing a strong interest in design for almost a year and a half now. I’ll have to
sheepishly admit that it really started when I discovered Ever since I have been slowly discovering the industry. And that brings me to were I am today.

My question is, well I don’t really know how to put it, So I’ll have to say it a different way.

When I was 11 years old I was invited to learn from a Journeyman knife maker who lived out in the country, how to make knifes. For two years mostly during the summer, my family would drive me to his house and I would spend all day in the shop with him on weekends. Learning to forge, temper, polish, carve our handles, and preen a knife to balance and perform to excellent standards.

In a lot of ways this is how I imagined design. I get really excited when I see college, and university design courses include a “Machine shop” or something similar. But, as I read the stories from people who work in this field, their stories seem to involve a lot of words that make them sound like they lug a laptop and a briefcase around to an office building everyday.

I can honestly say that I love design, both process and completed piece. But, I want to work with my hands, I want to build and create. That is were it really pays off for me.

So, my alternative to sketching about all day so a corp can put my idea to mass production. Is to own a small business of my own. Now, I’m sure that is what everyone would love to do right? It sounds like the holy grail of design, to design and sell what you see fit (so to say). So, I really wonder how realistic I am being with myself.

Yes, I guess that’s my question. Am I asking the wrong things from Design?

If I had it my way I would produce a lot of unique pieces on my own time. I wonder if that is something I can do on the side? As silly, as it sounds, My goal would be to have a shop to work in, and a store front to sell the items at. If you really wanted to know just how far my head is in the clouds, :stuck_out_tongue: then I would tell you that I would like to work with a collaborative of designers like myself. Who prefer to be at the head of their own designing. More designers, means a greater diversity in products, that means a larger potential customer base. Also, keeping my small business small comes with some advantages. I may be able to attract designers who work with reclaimed and recycled material. But I’m starting to drift off topic, and the truth is that I still need much more education when it comes to the business aspect of things. So, I am looking forward to your insight! :slight_smile:

I look forward to hearing from you!

I would like to work with a collaborative of designers like myself. Who prefer to be at the head of their own designing.

That sounds really contradicting.

Industrial design is a good start in terms of enabling you to engage in a wide range of possibilities out of school. There are designers who sit in a cube 12 hours a day cranking out CAD and plotting numbers in spread sheets so the engineers understand what we are talking about. There are also designers who spend more time with handtools in their hands than pencil or the mouse. It all depends on your bigger goals in life or career, and of course circumstances such as financial situation, the environment around what your are, the industry support and your luck will shape what you can do.

Before that you have to pick the right school. Different schools have different programs that prepare you differently. They all will give you a design education, but the experience is very different. Some make you sketch all day long. Some make you click the mouse all day long. Some just take your money. You will have to do a thorough research on different schools to see which fits your goals.

Ask not what design can give you. Ask what you can give to design!

Thanks, I can see what you mean. :slight_smile:

“Industrial Design” is not for you. That’s about mass production and serving client and user needs. We tend to work in offices and hang out here on Core.

“Design” as a craft, is what you want. You want a trade job, like a carpenter, potter, blacksmith or jewelry maker, where you can create unique pieces of functional-art, aka design. You can take on commissions, sell finished goods, or both.

Getting a degree in Industrial Design would be valuable regardless, because it’s the most multidisciplinary degree out there and you’ll learn a lot about a lot. However, you may be better off with more specialized training.

Ok, thanks for shooting me strait Cg.

Believe it or not I was able to find a college that has a metal hammering course…I know, I can hardly believe it myself really. I know technically you don’t need college to learn a “trade” but in the end I want something I can market, so I’m going to look into this.

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
All the best

I agree with cg - you’ll learn so much about how to actually make stuff happen on an ID course that it’ll be worth it. You have three options though:

  • Do an ID course, maybe learn other craft skills on the side, learn aboutform, function, product development, manufacturing, user experience, research, even branding.
  • Do a craft/art school course - Though there’ll be more craft, you’ll be pushed to explore the meanings behnind your work more than, say, making a really good knife.
  • Do an apprenticeship/nightschool - I mean, do you have to go to college at all? - if you took yourself some metal + wood working course, you could be up and running, selling your stuff online and working in your own tiny shop within a few months.

But ID will give you a large range of knowledge that the other two avenues may not

Best of luck!


I agree with the posters above that a course in ID would broader your vision.
But I do fear that you would squander a lot of timer in courses that you don’t
want. You seam to have recived very valuable training already. Some courses
in college that you have a strong interest in may compliment that, but a full
degree might cost you to much time.

Just start your own business while you are young, energetic and full of enthusiasm.
You will pick up what you need on your way.

A degree can’t give you half of what this old blacksmith might have.

All the best

yours mo-i

I took a computer aided product design degree course.

It involved heavy emphasis on cad, and learning to use cad as a tool to sculpt and ultimately be able to balance out function with aesthetics for manufacture. This also lead to me having spend years in college (American equivalent of high-school) learning integrated engineering where I learnt how to machine and how to work with electronics.

My job veers from client meetings, to site visits, to making prototypes, testing and fixing things when they go wrong. Its a small company, heavy diverse workload but I adore it.

This profession is neither boring or static, because if you have either your company is dead.

If you like working in a shop with you hands, but still want to be involved in design then maybe you could consider design model making and prototyping as a path. Model making is a discipline taught in many Industrial Design curriculums, but I believe there are also college programs dedicated to model making as a degree.

From what I’ve read, you will be served well by either of the technical routes you take. Whether it is ID or Tradesman.

It sounds as though you’re long term goal is to run a business. I suggest that you balance your education with a foundation in marketing and/or business.

First off, welcome to the boards. Big Notcot fan myself!

I think there are a number of ways you could go about getting to your goal, and none of them are wrong.

Certainly an ID school could be good. RISD’s program is pretty shop heavy and I know a lot of folks who went through that program to do what you want to do.

A craft school might also be an answer like Oregon College of Arts and Craft and California College of Arts and Craft.

I don’t know about the tradesman route, but it seems that would be more focused on gaining an employable skill vs creative problem solving and doing the kind of niche design frequently highlighted on a site like Notcot?

I have to say that I expected to hear quite a few different things from you guys, but starting my own business wasn’t one of them! :slight_smile:

@jackalus: Yea, that is how I imagined it before. Taking a ID course then breaking off to pursue something outside of that field when I completed my degree. This way I would not have to worry about my ability to handle myself in the business world. I really want the best of both worlds. To have a hands on approach, but also develop a streamlined, marketable image. So, that would be option 1 or 2.

@ mo-i: A bigger vision is something I definitely want. As far as spending time in unwanted classes, this is how the University I am currently hoping to attend describes its “design” course.

“Educational and research structure
The department’s educational and research structure consists of ten independent studios specializing in individual domains and organized into three groups addressing the common themes of visual, spatial, and functional design research. In addition, three studios in Environmental Design, Moving and Still Image Design, and Painting and Decorative Design have been established to provide common foundational courses. Both the undergraduate and post-graduate curriculum are tailored to allow each student to grow into his or her natural talent freely - without getting trapped in existing domains - by taking full advantage of the unique qualities of each studio and group.”

@kingred: Its really encouraging to hear that the industry is constantly challenging. Thanks for sharing! I don’t think I would enjoy sitting at a desk with cad all day. I had that experience before during my 3d modeling and animation class, and I was always frustrated with not making a “real” object, it was a barrier I had a lot of trouble getting over.

@greenman: Really? I can’t say I have really considered something in that field.

@ip_wirelessly: Yes, that would be amazing. To have both proficient skills in my “trade” and a strong business know how. But, doesn’t that ultimately mean I have to balance art school with business school?

@yo: (Sorry, don’t mean to bump my post, but I responded before seeing your post)

Yea, that question really highlights what is coming into the conflict with what I want. On one hand I do have the tradesman route. Now, I met people who would sell their knifes for around $2,000 at knife shows. It took them a while to get there, but something like that can be accomplished. My problem is that I want to use that kind of skill, and apply it to niche design. Because, ultimately tradesman to me sounds very restrictive for the things I want to do. Like making knifes. I want to get the education necessary to make things like lamps too for example. So while I might be a niche designer, I can jump easily from niche to niche. I would like to be able to make 10 lamps one day in my shop for my store, or website to sell one day. Then the next maybe start on jewelry, kitchen knifes, silverware, or maybe even furniture.

But I want the education to take on these diverse projects, and most impotently, the skills necessary to not look like a blacksmith who is just trying to look like a designer :wink:

This is were my critics say that I’m simply asking for too much. :slight_smile:

Oh, And, I will have to admit that my definitions of “Tradesman” and “Niche design” may be different from yours. I tried to write my response in a way that won’t get us confused, but if I took what you were trying to say the wrong way I’m sorry!

Love the quote :wink:

My take on the topic:

I love your hands-on-approach! It’s quite valuable these days. Since as you have mentoined most of them do their ‘dirty’ work in a Cad environment and spit it out via 3D-printing machines… :angry:
That’s no way of designing a product. Call me old-skool but you do need to feel the product, the material, the softness, hardness,… You have to learn from it. While you develop it. Let it have a life of its own. The idea is the conception. During development you give your idea away…and that is a good thing. It’s like parent that needs to let go of their child. If they don’t the child get screwed up :wink:
But I’m drifting…
Regarding the making of your own products. Feel free to do so. But be aware that you’ll only be able to produce just one product.
And you’ll have a limited audience. I say have some patience because looking at how rapid prototyping techniques are evolving in some years you’ll be able to scan your designs, put them online and on the other side of the world someone will download them (hopefully pay you some) go to the ‘print’ store and come home with your fully functional design.
the internet is the way. If you make it there you can make it everywhere :wink:
Oh and also consider the time needed to develop a fully functional (complex) well designed product? Will you ask the one client all of the development cost? What if you tinkered over the carving/creation of a knife for a half year?
The holy grail to design is not to be able to design and produce your own products.
But to twist the assignment so that you can do as much change to a product as possible. Think out of the box and make some real change.

You might do so. Since you don’t think like those straight-way-CAD-monkeys :wink:

Oh and if you want eduction. I’d suggest learning from the pro’s. If you are really genuine about this I’d say f*ck school and travel the country and learn from the masters. Some black smith, furniture makers, product designers, the lot…
But there’s also much to be learned if you get some education and get a job at a design firm. They get lots of assignments of all kinds of industries. A whole new world might be opening to you :wink:



Sure, it is a profession that exists, my internship was focused on modeling making for the automotive industry, we used clay and foamcore mostly, but the the good model makers can work with any material in a shop, I found this link on a quick Google serach, it sums up the profession pretty well:

And then there’s studios that do stuff like this:

And do have a sexy inviting site! :open_mouth:… zap

Thanks greenman for those sites!

@Atohms your reply gave me some really good things to think about. But, am I really limited to just one product? I have heard that to plan on the success of one product is the deathwish of designers everywhere. I guess then my option would be to join a studio. Maybe like something greenman showed me. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad. Hmm…

Huh? It’s a .gov site hahah, what do you want? I found it on a Google search…

I read over your post and think I know where you’re coming from Koudee27. Many things in selecting your education are very personal choices of course. However, reading what you have written I would consider a craft school. There are a couple around the country that you could get scholarships to and they could open you up to new things. They are usually workshop style and unlike college courses they are almost all exclusivly taught by career craftspeople. You will be surrounded by aspiring peers like yourself that can help you better understand what you want out of a career.
There are a couple of schools where you can be a core student where you work for the school for a duration of time in exchange for studio time and classes. That means you get a lot of time to learn on your own and from seasoned craftspeople, time to make connections.

The best part about involving yourself in a program like this is that it’s relatively inexpensive. After you are finished, if you decide that a craftsman life is not for you, you won’t be broke and could still attend college afterwards. You could do this in reverse order but it becomes difficult when you have debt from college. Plus if you choose to enter a design program you will be ahead of the game, and more likely to recieve a scholarship.

After getting laid-off from a model making job, I got scholarship to spend a summer at Penland school of Craft. It was a great experience. Check out :