Am I the Crazy One?

I’m interning at a small corporation, whose culture has been a shock, but what I really want to ask is, as a designer among engineers, marketing (mostly marketing) and salespeople, will I ever be taken seriously?

My fellow designers and I work in a windowless office and have to constantly justify taking more than a few hours to design a product. I don’t think they know or even care what research is.

They laugh at paper models and yell when they see how much a prototype costs.

All they care about it the FOB and how many units they can fit on a shelf, quality is an after thought.

Am I the crazy one? Will I ever be looked at more than somebody to crank out shiny renderings?

Are there people out there who care?

I’m sorry that I sound ungrateful, I am getting a lot of experience and I have more responsibility than anybody getting paid like an intern should have.

But seriously, what the hell?

that’s similar to my experience with corporations. especially failing ones. our marketing kills our design intents with cost reduction and “make it look thinner/smaller”. it’s pretty frustrating, and i’m pretty intent on never working for a corporation if i can help it.

Virtually all of my experience is corporate and while I have had times when I felt undervalued or like my full skill set was not being utilized, I have never been in a situation like the one you described. Typically have appreciated what the design group had to offer even if there was the occasional feeling that all we did was make renderings. This is not to defend corporate on the whole, but just to say that not all corporate gigs are bad, it helps to do your homework and make sure that the company (atleast seems) to value design.

No. You aren’t crazy. It sounds to me like the company you work for doesn’t understand the value of design. If I were you, I’d keep your head down, crank out portfolio quality work for them, and jump out when you get the first chance. You’ll be happier in the end. Just make sure you’re prepared to make the leap.

Honestly, this sounds like a fantastic experience and I’ll e plain why.

Every organization is a little different. It sounds like the one you are in is a one end of the extream! Totally marketing control, engineering acting more like costing than true problem solving engineering, no strong design leadership or vision! Of course as an intern you can’t change those things, nor as a designer really, but now you know what this feels like. Observe the tell tale signs and ask the right questions in your interviews. The other end of this spectrum does exist. Also know that as you mature into a senior designer, manager, and director it is not about doing the same thing you do now, but faster, netter, it is about creatin the environment for design to flourish. I would defenetly relish the opportunity to go into a company like that as a vp of design, but I wouldn’t go in any lower than that, and still it would be a challenge!

This is specifically why design thinking is important.

Regardless of whether you agree that DT is a myth only useful in selling design to people like those you work with, or if you really believe we are doing something new and revolutionary, companies like the one you have described create the necessity of some shiny marketing strategy for design as a legitimate profession.

If I were you, I have to disagree with Yo, get out, the only thing I bet you are learning is some form of cynicism. Unless the “design force” is really strong with you, I can see an experience like that darkening your outlook of design, and of engineering and marketing. Once negativity seeps in, it is really difficult to dig out.

I think you’ve seen the bad side of the spectrum, so how much more do you need to know. You’ve pretty much summed up what you need to learn from that, so since you aren’t likely to know how to create change in this environment yet, I’d say pack it in.

I completley understand your situation and experienced it myself as an intern to. My aproach to it all was exactly what YO and Nurb have eluded to, and actually disagree with carton (depending on the OP’s temperment).

This is a fantastic experience and the reaction your having is a very good thing and shows that you want to better yourself. This internship is showing you the dark side of design (something something dark side, sorry had just watched family guy!). For me I wasn’t great in the 2nd year when applying for internships and landed a pretty sucky design internship, the website looked pretty good. Lots of politics, cost constraints via engineering, ripping of other products cad cad cad cad, marketing, bitter senior designers\ managers etc…

Long story short, this spured me on as a focus to what I didn’t want to do and what to look out for in the future when interviewing. I wrote off to a few designers and asked them specific questions as to how to improve and to be reasured this wasn’t how design was supposed to be similar to what your doiing. Working hard in the evenings doing portfolio work ( till about 1am each morning) again working hard during final year and this year just gone. It worked, since then I’ve recently landed a top job at top consultancy, this was all down to being spurred on by that 1 sucky internship (which the company has now folded).

Had I had an “ok” internship I might have never pushed myself quite as hard as I did, use this as a positive example.

“without the bitter the sweet aint as sweet”

lol, being as I’ve been to conferences to hear yo speak, and not the other way around, his words are probably more relevant… :smiley:

Oh yeah, been there!! When I was working in BFE Kansas doing injection-mold product design, the focus was obviously on how many units could fit in a PDQ tray or how much the buyer at WalMart would like it. That’s just life anymore, unfortunately.

Now, that said, there is no reason that good design can’t and should be part of everyday life (Phillipe Starck). That’s a quote I tend to live by. At the same time, you have to absolutely understand that you’re only a cog in the machine. Don’t get a big head and think you’re going to solve all of the world’s problems. Maybe at a premier design firm, a big-time company might hire you out to just be a thinker, but in the realm of big business, that’s sadly not the case.

My suggestion to you is to simply learn all you can while at your current position. It’s not exactly bad. You’re simply seeing how the manufacturing world works and that’s worth volumes. Much more than, say, the “artist” designers that typically have their new designs plastered all over Core. That’s just art, IMO. It’s not supposed to be manufactured, and if it is, then it’s very low-volume. You’ll be MUCH more valuable understanding the limitations of mass-manufacturing and using this knowledge to your benefit. That’s where the true innovation lies, IMO.

Don’t forget, this is just an internship, if this was a junior designer, I’d say get out as soon as you can! But as an internship, so good insights can be brought back to school and analyzed.

Excuse the typos lately please. I’m on a cross country roadtrip and only checking via iPhone. You can follow along on Twitter if you like…

Why does the design group exist at all?

cg: that was my first thought! Every company that seems as anti-design as this one normally doesn’t have a design group. There must be one advocate in the company…

Has the management/engineering staff recently changed, maybe there was support but there has been a change of climate as new team members have come in.

I have been there. I have to agree with Mike on this one. Take this as an opportunity to learn about what not to do in the industry. I worked for a start-up when I first graduated school that had horrible management. They did not really understand design and given it was just me, a young engineer and I was fresh green designer I did not really have the experience need to run a design group. I did the best I could with the knowledge I had, but the leadership was not there. We also fell into the same situations as you. There was no money for materials and mock-ups. All of my supplies I ended up buying myself (I was a contract so I just wrote them off on my taxes), and to top it all off all the money that came in was going into the owners pocket, paying his own bills, and my pay-checks started coming later and later. Needless to say I did not stay there for long, but I did stay there long enough to learn a few things.

Now this experience was awful and very very stressful, but what I got out of it was quite a bit. I learned how to lead, as I was the only internal designer there leading a few freelancers, and as the owner was rarely around I dealt with clients most of the day and had to make decisions on my own. I learned how to deal with difficult times, and difficult people. And I learned how not to treat people or designers in a professional setting. Given that I had no leadership it also stretch me out side my comfort zone and made me push myself.

After leaving and joining Mars, I again walked into a company that was not very design focused, but this time I walked in with the knowledge and experience to help show what design can do and how effective it can be. I no longer was waiting for people to tell me how to design a product or tell me what they wanted to see, I was telling them how we could make the products or their process better and started to push design. I put my head down and just started doing it. I put the sketches, mood boards, etc on the wall for everyone to see. I started doing the models regardless if people thought I was weird. I did the research even though others thought it was a waist of time. I challenged them when they just asked for a rendering. I did all of it, but I also made sure I was putting it in front of the proper people as well as putting it up for others that walk by could see it. We now have designers all over the world. I can’t take credit for all of it as we have hired other creative people in management, but I was one of the first IDers hired it has started to really get some legs here in the US.

I am a firm believer in “Seeing is believing”. Mars is a very marketing driven company. We have some of the strongest brands in the world, but if you can understand the brands and prove how your process or work is going to help those brands grow and flourish than marketing is going to listen.

Just my $0.02

Thank you all for you advice. I immediately started following it at work.

I feel so foolish for the amount of time I’ve stayed there. The very real opportunity to get multiple products out as an intern has been the main reason to stay, but my sense of responsibility is evaporating with a desk full of killed projects.

I understand this will always be a reality, but I feel like the process could have been less painful with better communication (not excluding myself).

Today I was asked why I like design, and I had to think about it. I immediately gave a cheery but hollow response. The reality is that design is the only thing I have ever liked.

I stared at my computer screen the rest of the day trying to think of a better answer.

I’d love to hear anybody tell me why they like design.

Why do I like design? It is kind of an odd question, I like a good book, I like my new mac, but when it comes to design it is not a matter of liking it, which implies that maybe someday I won’t like it. It isn’t a passing fancy, or something to kill time, it is a part of who I am. It’s like asking why do I like my right arm? Its what I’ve got.