Best way to start education in ID with non-design undergrad?

I currently have an undergraduate degree in a non-design field (International Relations), and currently work in Washington DC as a research assistant at a policy think tank. I’m 25. However, I would like to transition into a creative career as an Industrial Designer. I have always been attracted to creative careers and have sketched and painted (watercolors, oils) etc but have always believed it to be a hobby. In recent months, I have been doing more reading about design professions and am attracted to ID because of its practicality and its potential to help me have a fulfilling career being a problem solver and actually designing real things that could go into production. This is what I would love to do!

I have been looking into MFA programs in Industrial Design, as a logical step into the profession. However, I would like to give myself a solid grounding in the fundamentals of drawing, design, design history, prototyping, rendering, etc. In looking at a few MFA programs that don’t explicitly require a design undergrad, they don’t appear to cover really fundamental skills such as these. I spoke with a student who was getting his Masters from IIT in Chicago and he mentioned that unless you have an undergrad in ID, you can’t really compete with the students that do, even if you get your Masters. He said that at that point, you have to aim to work as a consultant, or in management/design strategy.

I am interested in learning the fundamentals but not necessarily in pursuing another 4 years of school. I know some Masters programs such as Pratt, offer a 1 year ‘core’ course for students who haven’t had previous design degrees. This is appealing to me. I also know of other Post-Bacc programs such as that at Auburn and the B.A. in Design at Carnegie Mellon which allow you to work on design related skills for 1 year and then proceed to a masters.

  1. Does anyone know of other such 1 year-degree or 2+1 masters programs that I could pursue, or have any other advice on pursuing a second bachelors vs a masters? It is a difficult decision to make because it is a potential student loan for something I have little to no experience in. I have done a fair amount of research in the field, from talking to people and reading different forums and websites, and consider myself creative-minded, even though I have never actually pursued a creative career and kept it as a hobby.

  2. Also, while I do have some things I can contribute towards a portfolio, such as watercolor and mixed-media art that I have created in my own time in the past few years, I do not have more intensive work experience in the field. I have borrowed a lot of books on sketching/product design and plan on doing a lot of sketches and research work for a portfolio. I also may take a class in CAD just to show that I am trying. Any suggestions for books, resources or other things I can do in the next few months to learn as much as I can on my own to contribute in the way of a portfolio?

Thanks in advance!

NC State has a 3-year MID program.

Did you attend NC State? Any alums or current students? I want to learn more about this program, its strengths and weaknesses, alum job placement, etc. Thanks iab!

you are on the right track, you’ll want to treat this as a first degree regardless of what it’s called.
probably the most valuable experience you can have as a student is an internship. consider spending 4 years getting into the job you want, rather than any shortcuts that lead you down another path, as you mentioned, I also have seen a number of Masters in ID graduates end up doing consumer research or UI design because they simply didn’t have the chops to cut it as designers…

I have seen a number of Bachelors in ID graduates who simply didn’t have the chops to cut it as a designer …

It has been said many times on this board, an education is what you make of it. Personally, wasting a year fulfilling humanities credits for a bachelors seems silly to me.

As for NC State, their website and speaking with their faculty would be much more informative that I ever could be. There are several other 3-year ID programs out in the world, but you will need to find them.