Am I fit to do industrial design?

I’m 27 with an BFA from MICA’s Fine Arts. I would like to go into industrial design (like cars, trains, planes). But I don’t know if it’s possible for me, because all I’ve done up until this point are traditional fine art and illustrations, and I’m old. While doing research online it looks like to do industrial design people are passionate about physics, geometry, furniture; and are Fulbright holders, and dream about chairs. I remember the last contact I had with sciences and math was in high school, and for each of them I got 70-80 out of 100.

Is it possible for me to study and become an industrial designer, or is it too unrealistic? What would it be like if I try? What would I need to do? My thanks in advance for replying.

Get a Masters in Transportation Design from Art Center, and you’ll be all set.

Agreed. A lot of graduate students at Art Center are around your age (and I really don’t consider 27 to be old). Also, every major has it’s stereotype of people, but that doesn’t mean you need to conform to it to be successful.

…and I’m old.

Oh com’onnnnnnn … . . I’ve got jockey shorts older than 27; Purdue University, class of 1973.

It’s not going to be easy. You’ll have to re-establish your academic records, find financing, develop something resembling a portfolio, and find a school. Re-establish study habits, and did I mention find financing?

It’s certainly not impossible … but it’s going to take a ton of perseverance, and dedication. And one thing you really need to have a clear understanding of, is: you will not make a lot of money as an Industrial Designer (provided you can even find a job four years from now).

All that aside, you could not have found a better place to hang out than CORE if ID is what you want to do. I wish I’d had this resource in 1973.

Welcome aboard.

LOL! Just the fact that they are called jockey shorts shows they are at least 27 years old!

  1. welcome to the boards
  2. look around a bit in the student’s and schools section and use the search feature to check out some of the other folks that have been in your situation.


Industrial design is a great career. The question is not so much are you fit to do it, you are, does it fit to what you want to do?

Transportation design is like pro sports or being a rock star, it is something that many aspire to do from an early age, but the number of jobs is limited. If you are intent on designing cars, it might in fact be a little bit late if it is not something that has run through your blood.

Do you look at the things around you and think of how they are made, work, and could be better? That seems the key spark of being an industrial designer. Not only are there many areas of design, there are many job functions within the field. It may be possible to visit a design firm in your area and get a quick tour if they are friendly. Looking at the jobs listing in the field might also give you an idea of the kinds of jobs there are.

Drawing and illustration are key aspects of making a visualization real, it is a great talent to have.

I know well the weighing of thoughts on the subject of going into Industrial Design, later in life. I have not pulled the trigger on a second education myself. I’m just finishing up paying for my first education. However, if you can figure out the logistics, and are fairly confident in your abilities then that’s a start. You only live once, but be aware of the sacrifices you will have to make in your own life to get what you want.

Don’t worry over the math and science stuff. I barely passed my math classes in high school, because I was always focused on art making. Now I contribute it to focus, your grown and should be able to focus enough to meet the challenge. I went to art school like you, I currently work as a modelmaker/machinist, the math is not rocket science. You just have to start exercising that left side of your brain, and brush off the cobwebs… but let me tell you it’s not comfortable at first.

Like Lmo said I have been hanging around Core77 awhile and it seams most designers use more empirical knowledge when solving problems than hard science anyway. Maybe someone else can speak on this subject…

Very true, from what I hear statistically you have a better chance of becoming a pro football player than a car designer. If you want to go into the aviation design industry, maybe try a Teague? or a company that’s in the field? (Honeywell, Johnson Controls, etc.) You may not be designing the physical shape (which isn’t created by a IDer in the plane industry) of the airplane but you can work on the interior, instruments, and interaction design portion of airplanes.

Or just quit the whole transportation idea.

Start a bachelor in product or industrial design. So so go for it. Let it engulf you and become a designer 24/7.
Get that portfolio nice and then head out. Go to work , Learn some more. Get some other work, learn some more.
And do a lot of different things. Don’t be a sketch artist. Learn to master all the skills of the design process. Learn some more.
Do a lot of different projects. From a stupid industrial machine, a toothbrush, packaging, outdoor furniture, lamp post, mixer, airplane table, do everything. And then maybe they’ll even let you do cars, boats and airplanes :wink:

So yeah you can do it …

But as Yoda said:

Do or do not…there is no try



You might need some maths during a Bachelor at some universities, but for a Master at another
you may not. → I had to do lot’s of engineering stuff during my studies and hardly ever needed
anything close to it afterwards. And I too was not that much of a maths genious during high school,
but as my interest shifted the abilities came to the focus of interest.

Hang out with some ID students irl and check out what they are doing first.


Jack - you’re never too old to become an industrial designer. Are you still located in Maryland? If so, give me a ring or shoot me an email (info is on our website), we should grab lunch. As a former MICA student (fine arts) a grad of Univ. Of MD (business) and an Honors Grad of CCS (ID) I might be able to offer some thoughts on portfolio prep, what to expect and how to transfer credits :slight_smile:

hey Jack,

it’s great to know that you’re interested in the Industrial Design field, similar to what most people have said before, you’re never too old to learn. so if you’re passionate about Industrial Design, then go for it.

however, i do not recommend Art Center College of Design to anyone anymore, as i’m personally an Art Center Product Design grad. in 2010. I see that MOST of my transportation design friends didn’t and still don’t have a job offer, after paying such high tuition, i’ve even heard our faculties in school talked about a student graduated w/ over $300,000 student loan on his shoulders, and not getting any job offers?

i personally have a little over $250,000 student loan waiting to pay back as a Product Design major (don’t forget living expense if you live by yourself, supplies, and crazy amount of 3d modeling fee), but i don’t see how i can pay it back anytime soon without a job. our school’s career service does not care if you have a job or not by the time your grad. meaning they won’t help, so you better network while you’re in school. fyi - a dept. chair once mentioned to a student that, “tuition will be $20,000/term by fall of 2011” and each year has 3 terms.

the world has changed, just because we grad. from Art Center, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to get a decent job. i’ve had a full-time job before, but i was being underpaid (< $10/hr) and constantly overtime. i’m resigned, but this trans guy (from Art Center as well) who worked with me stayed and had to put up with that <$10/hr bs as a designer?

i’ve been searching for jobs for a couple of months now, and it turns out that i’ve learned, noticed, and experienced a lot that the industry from my local area don’t praise talent, they praise people who can bs but not design. there’s so much politics going on, if they see your as a threat, SOME people would talk down on your work/personality, so that you don’t get the job offer (i’ve seen that happen to friends).

so if you’re really passionate about Industrial Design, go for it, you’re not too old at all, and it’s never too old to learn. but if you’re not certain about a transportation design job (since the industry’s really small), you might want to go elsewhere that is cheaper, but intern more for more real (free of tuition, and you get paid) experience to improve yourself. i’ve once talked to designers from Ford during designer nights, they told me that if you don’t have that transportation design blood in you, don’t bother to waste your time and money. i’m a person who loves to travel, and i don’t want to be limited to only places with trans design, so i chose Prod. Design instead, but w/ this bad economy, I’ve decided to have a career change and find another way to pay back my 1/4 million student loan…

good luck and best wishes to your future!!

Uh, I swore I typed a reply message earlier… my fault for not checking. Belated thank-you everyone for replying :sunglasses: I did some digging in the forums regarding going back to school. There are 2 main suggestions - school is good for its structured and focused learning experience; work for practice and more ‘lively’ learning experience that differs from school.

The 2 main reasons I want to learn ID is 1.) it’s more practical than the elusive fine arts and illustration I have now, and 2.) the Design for the Other 90% exhibit I saw at the Cooper Hewitt museum. I’ve always wanted to do some practical good with my love for and skill in art. Not just making beautiful or abstract illustrations. The design of products have always intrigue and impress me, but I’ve never seriously designed anything. When trying to do’s industrial design challenge it felt like being tossed into a foreign city with a timed mission - I was at a great lost on how to proceed, and what I produced didn’t seem to draw any enthusiasm. In this state, going into graduate school for ID master seems pointless. Going for another bachelor’s degree would be 4 more unemployed years (3 if Art Center?). Being over-educated, but under-experienced at 30-something is pretty bad I think.

However with my current skill set the jobs I keep landing are part-time like retails, such as B&N. How can that help with anything? For better or for worse, my family hasn’t left me alone, and I’m allowed to stay with them - unemployed or not - since New York City rent is insanely expensive.

I really appreciate all the feed backs you guys have given - you have provided much insights. If I could venture to ask for a bit more on what these option really mean, or there are more options I am not seeing. Stay home and go for either BS or MS industrial design at nearby school (Pratt? NYU?), or work whatever job I can find while trying to practice ID myself, using library and online community projects (like

Eh… sorry if this is a lot of reading, long post.

I just ran across this post and had to chime in as someone who is WAY older than you and in my final year in ID. I go to a public university in the Midwest and just turned 40, so if you think you are “old”, think again! :slight_smile: You might be “older” but not old. I was too worried about age and still to some extent worry about being turned away at some places of work because I am older, but then again, those aren’t places I’d want to work for anyway, if they value youth over life experience. I actually still look like I am 25 and get mistaken for being in the same age range as my classmates, but the fact is, ageism is alive and well in many industries, not just ID and I have to be ready for what may come my way and you might have to be realistic as well and find the areas you might be able to design better for, now that you are close to 30. My niche would probably in the areas of product design for baby boomers and those dealing with ergonomics, transgenerational design, etc. You might also have to think of areas that you might be able to use your life-experience, work experience, etc… to your advantage to better design for a more mature audience. Just go for it, but I suggest a reputable public university. Private art/design colleges are great, but not at the expense of being in debt 250 k. It’s all about your talent, your portfolio and how well you understand that design is not simply about making pretty objects but also about functionality, ergonomics and problem solving. Most reputable public universities with an ID program can teach you that. The rest is up to you.

As for the guy who is in 250,000 dollar debt, I feel for you. How do these colleges get away with charging that much! It’s disgusting. I have always heard that Art Center is a great school with great networking/connections to the industry, but that still is no reason to charge so much. ID entry level jobs don’t even pay that well initially… enough to make those loan payments, which I shudder to think might be per month. yikes. Good luck to you.

i’m jumping into this chat a little late, couple of years lol. @cjs33139, your post pretty much describes me. as someone older who went back to school several years ago to study id, i graduated from accd with that amount of debt with interest that keeps compounding. so your post kinda hit me hard when i read it as it hit a little close to home with my current situation of making big monthly student loan payments for a long time - unless i can produce some million dollar product design ideas soon! accd is a great school and i got a great education out of it. but yea it’s extremely expensive (and probably overpriced like most private art/design schools and private colleges in general), the product/industrial design industry is very small, competitive and specialized much like architecture (which was what i wanted to study initially) tho probably with more opportunities as everyone uses products in their lives so there’s tons of product companies out there. maybe i should start a new thread to talk about my own experience.

You’re not too old at 27. I started at 25 and a few classmates were approaching 30 when they started.

The older guys seemed to land jobs a bit easier, having more experience in other areas (manufacturing especially).

In Australia we have a great system called HECS (higher education contribution scheme) so we pay nothing up front other than a few hundred in fees per semester and our equipment . How does a mature age student do it in the US?

I didn’t realize how old a thread this was but, i’ll chime in. Hopefully for anyone else pondering entering design school at an “older” age i can be of so some help. I’m a 28yr old first year Cleveland Institute of Art student starting classes in less than 6 weeks. I was deathly worried about age hindering my success but those feelings are long gone. Don’t get caught up in getting into the “perfect” school or being the “perfect” age or starting at the “perfect” time. There is no perfect school or a perfect age/time to start a career in design or any endeavor in life for that matter. I’ve heard of numerous older students doing very well for themselves in product and Trans design. If the looming hardship you may face due to the perceived value you put on age as a determinant to your success is the main issue for you not following or doing what you want, then you need to step back and reassess if you have what it takes to succeed in general. No matter where you are in life there will always be some looming hardship, some unforeseen risk.