Bad education leads to no jobs, is grad school the answer?

I graduated about a year and a half ago from a terrible school that taught me no real Industrial Design Skills (not even SolidWorks) and now I am in alot of debt (upwards of 150k bc they tricked me into taking a ton of money out that I thought was going to help me). Since I don’t have Solidworks, I wasn’t required to do any internships and only two of the teachers there actually have industrial design degrees, it has become nearly impossible for me to find work, a reccommendation or anything, even in a time of recession. I have gone on many interviews and have even worked as a graphic designer for awhile, but I continually hear that I am unqualified for any entry level industrial design job. My main thing is that I want to learn Solidworks and be involved in enrichment activities to enhance my skills to the next level, the problem is, is that the school I attended isn’t even like a real school and I can only get into a handful of grad schools with my bachelors degree in INDUSTRIAL DESIGN TECHNOLOGY, which, by the way, is generally used in reference to an associates degree… :frowning:
So do I go to grad school and dish out more money and just hope I don’t get screwed again and that I’ll be able to at least find some freelance work to keep me on the right track to being a product designer?
Clearly I am stuck and I need advice. I taught myself to sew and am running a pretty successful etsy store now making items from trashed umbrellas, but it’s not something that will get me through my bills for the rest of my life. I want to be a real product designer.
Any suggestions, advice or help that you can provide is greatly appreciated, thank you.

Taryn, I read your post and looked at your portfolio. I think that your projects are pretty cool and insightful. I understand and feel for you as you may feel duped by your University. Out of curiosity where did you go? A couple of points and comments.

a) Solidworks is not your answer. Yes you should probably learn an industry standard CAD program, as this is an important step in the development process of products but is not the end all be all of Industrial Design. It is just a tool. You want to be a designer right? Not a “CAD jockey”. Also, understand taht depending where you work it may be a different program. It could be Alias, Rhino, Pro-E, Modo…the list goes on. Its about understanding how to build in CAD.

b) Industrial design is about the process and thought behind design. Why is it being made? Why is it being made the way it is? Also, its not necessarily designing a thing. Often I am designing experiences where I corral existing items to help create and streamline experiences.( This is just touching what ID is, can and will be).

c) Grad school may be very helpful depending on where you go. My personal opinion is that Grad school is really for helping to define where in the design world you want and should be and exploring that. But again there are plenty of grad students that dont have ID undergrad degrees and are very successful only they have to learn some of the basics ID undergrads already have. I think that building (or re-building and adding to, as the case may be) your core design skills i.e sketching, rendering by hand, Photoshop, Illustrator, hand prototyping, etc.) can be re-done in grad school but is not the real focus.

d) If you want to become an Industrial designer, under any circumstances NEVER EVER EVER GIVE UP! Frustration will always be there just keep your drive and your creative vision and continue to learn and you will get there.

c) Try and go for some internships that can help you build up some of the skills you need. Work for free if yo have to. Even if they cant have you as an intern ask them for a design brief that you will do on your own time and ask if they will agree to critque you.

d) Use the core77 boards for feedback on everything and anything. Thats what it is here for.

e) If your in the NYC area I would be happy to look at your work in more detail and listen to what you would like to do and learn and see if I can help point you in any other directions.

Rant over. Good luck.

You’re right, you did get hosed. I’ve never been that big a fan of the art institutes of _____________ . I have yet to see anyone from them that is really rocking out. However you seem to have some good projects on your coroflot page. Try beefing them up, showing process, early models, where the problem you solved was; and how it was solved. You should also visit and start sketching like you are going insane. All the time, 24/7. Get some free version of whatever software you want and start playing with it. Find some free tutorials online then model some of your designs in it as well. Nobody cares where you went to school, you’re not some blue blood and it wouldn’t much matter anymore anyway. Just show that you have a process, problem solving skills, ideation skills, taste, strong communication skills, and a high level of craft. Then apply for grad school. Or a job…

So don’t get discouraged, just get something that pays the bills, but will leave you with free time to start kicking ass through your old stuff (and maybe some new stuff too).

I don’t think that a poor education equals no job. An education is education, and there is a lot more to it than just going to school. I graduated from a school which at that time was just starting their ID program and a 1.5 years later (which is the same amount as you) I just got a job. It’s more about being tough and getting yourself out there. Attend IDSA events, keep sketching, rework past projects, create your own projects, etc.

Keep in contact with connections you made in school and keep creating new ones.


First want to say that everything mentioned above is absolutely true. The number one is that you have to believe in yourself and have the drive to get to where you want to go. I looked at you samples and your work is not bad. I do think you need to show some process work, meaning, sketches, sketch models, etc…But the products and thinking I saw look on track.

How are you approaching these companies for jobs and work? Can they read on your face that you do not think your work is worthy? If they can then that is your problem. If you are not confidant about your portfolio how can they trust you to be confidant about the projects they give you? As a designer you almost need to be a bit full of yourself. I think this was said by Yo a few years back and it is true. You need to sell yourself and your idea as if it is the best damn thing in the world.

As far as Solidworks and Grad school goes…SW is just a software package and without knowledge of what you want to do with your career grad school is a waste of money. Do you have any 3D experience? Software can be taught talent cannot. Show that you can think like a designer and they will teach you the software. I too did not learn SW in college. I eventually learn it, but it did not keep me from getting a job.

Taryn, you have a good starter portfolio, and your website is really nice too. I certainly think you’ve got what it takes to get an internship or jr. position. Remember, it’s 2009, probably the worst year ever to be looking for a job. So have patience, and use this time to fill in some gaps in the presentation of your work.

Perfect example: your trashcan project looks really interesting. You’ve identified a good user-need, but I don’t see your sketching process, and I don’t see your design solution. I see a rendering of what looks like a generic step-can. I think there’s more here that you’re not telling us. For one, what is the solution?

Bingo. A lot of good advice here. Taking a look through your work I like where your head is at, you just need to show us your thinking more visually. I don’t think 2 years in grad school are going to help that. 6 months at home working super hard on it will though… and that is tuition free.

Start bench marking successful portfolios and projects. Print them out and hang them up all around you… that is your target. You have to beat those kids out.

Here is one to get you started: This kid hasn’t graduated yet. Your portfolio has to be more compelling than this:

I just want to thank everyone for their advice, I’m going to take it. I’m going to spend the next 6 months really beefing up some of the concepts that I do have, because it seems like that is overall what it needs. I always felt like I had good ideas, but making them clear to people was always something that was hard for me, I get frustrated when people do not understand what I am talking about, it all makes sense now. The good thing is, is that I feel like alot of my skills have gotten better with the development and expansion of my company, Recycling Zychal, but, the bad part is, I feel like I’ve just let myself kind of wander off in terms of my own name as a designer because I’ve been so focused on my business.
I also wanted to say that I am among about 4 other people who have literally the same problem from the same program at the same school that I attended and I am going to share this information with them. I am very lucky to have these people as they have been my ranting crutches for sometime, but I think its about time for us to all band together and stop complaining.

Last, I just want to reply to PackageID’s questions about how I approach companies. I’ve done it both ways and definitely find that being a little into myself works. I’ve always felt as though I’ve been a little too confident, but yes it does work. On the flip, I’ve gone into interviews where I’ve been so over dressed it was actually embarrassing. It’s very important for me to look respectable (I look really young for my age, so I need to look professional to kind of even it out). When I present my portfolio, I usually open up the first couple of pages, get bored then start pulling out samples of things I’ve made because I am definitely more proud of my prototyping skills than I am of my portfolio.
I checked out that persons portfolio that YO suggested, its awesome, I’m going to start really getting involved more with my sketching. I actually just downloaded a trial of sketchbook pro, I’m going to see where that takes me. :slight_smile:

oh, and one more thing, I already started revisiting the EZMT Trash Can.
I was in a really big illustrator mood the other day and just went at it, I’m going to continue uploading more to it.

Benchmarking is a great way to move yourself upward. I get on here and coroflot everyday. Another way is by critiquing others work. By looking at others work and giving constructive feedback, you start to formulate clear ideas on how you want to do things.

It is great you have a support group of people from school. Continue to lean on them, just make sure it doesn’t turn into a kind of negative quicksand, but instead becomes a positive group forward motion.

I’d also recommend things like the gnomon workshop DVDs, renderdemo DVDs, or our own “the Brief” DVD

Having something like that to pop on to stay motivated at a low spot is great… that and a couple of favorite movies. I think I watched Empire Strikes Back almost every day for that 6 months I was home without a job.

You are pretty hard on yourself. Your work for your company shows a lot of the kind of recycle /reuse thinking that is along the lines of what a lot of industrial designers are working towards. My humble recommendation is that you build your company up with more of these cool concepts. If you have a big enough line, you might find yourself making a good living at it!

Although some have said solidworks/rhino/alias is not required for a young designer, I’d argue that it is. I’m going to catch flak for this, but If you can’t afford to buy a cad suite, download one. Use it to learn and get that first job, then buy it when you can afford it. Even though most of these boards slam on “cad Jockeys,” it’s way better to be working in cad than not working at all; keep that in mind. The other skills like drawing, research, thinking, and modeling are all as important as being able to reads, so by no means neglect them. Additionally, as a young designer the times are tough, employers can get people with experience over you for the same price. This sucks, but its also an opportunity to get yourself up to level ground with other designers in the mean time.

As everyone has said, keep on going and believing in yourself. A lot of talented designers already see potential in you, believe them, they wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it.

Very insightful tips to know about…

Are there any suggestions for building a good Cover Letter/Resume? Are there strong pts. to hit on when writing a cover letter…seems like a bad Cvr Ltr. can hurt your propects for a job. Any examples…

Are companies looking for a teaser page or the entire portfolio? I have been told 5 pages at most for submissions, and 10-20 pages max. for a final portfolio (3-5 images per page); Or should a sample pg/teaser with 5 images be sufficient?

Seems like some companies are unlikely to accept grads. for internships. Do some companies have a pipeline with selected ID schools?

In your cover letter, you should write about what skills you have that will help the company. Don’t say, “your company will give me the opportunity to do ‘this’.” They already know that if you work for them you’ll get more experience. They want to know what makes you special and what you can do that will help them essentially make more money. If your experience is relatable to what they do (which it should!) say it, but don’t suck up to the company.

Most companies are looking for a teaser. Don’t put too much text in there, they won’t read it. Designers are visual people, so make sure there are lots of good pictures to look at! If you have time, learn some typography, there’s nothing worse then good work that’s poorly layout on a page surrounded by bad typography. You’re a designer, so make it well designed.

Yes, some schools already have internships setup with companies. But in the end, it comes down to who’s the best fit.

Not to be a dick, but in your cover letter and anyplace. ALOT is always spelled a lot. It is two words. I make spelling and grammar faux pas too. It just dose not look good when you do it alot (joke).

Good advice there.

and when in doubt, keep it simple. Keep the over flowered text to an absolute minimum. Say who you are, what school you went to, when you graduated, what experience you have, why you MIGHT be a good fit and get straight to the work. Visually show your ideas.

It dosen’t?