Can a Sculptor get into Industrial Design?

Graduated with a BA in Art with a concentration in sculpture and am thinking about getting an MFA in it because I love it and want to continue my practice, but I don’t want to teach. I’ve researched Industrial Design a lot (seen Objectified, read The Design of Everyday Objects and other books, looked at university courses) and see a lot of similarities (and differences) between the two disciplines. I’ve worked with CNC and 3D printers and have done some mold making and furniture building. What would it take, if possible, for a sculptor to have a career in ID? Would it better suit me to get a Master of Industrial Design? Thanks for your help!

I think it can be done based on your skills and ambition, I mean Marc Newson studied Jewelry and Sculpture and he’s considered one of the greatest ID’ers of all time.

Went back to University last semester, and what I’m seeing is that they highly praise hand drawing, and drawn illustrations.

Best of luck!

It all depends on your portfolio. To attract work you need to show what you can do. It is completely possible, AV club mentioned the Marc Newson example. Of course it is also ‘possible’ to be the next Michael Jordan :slight_smile: … if you want to have a smoother (but more costly) transition going back to school would probably be helpful. Of course a masters takes 2 years and lots of cash. An alternate could be setting aside 2 years for yourself and working on a killer portfolio, building some furniture or other things, and seeing what happens. As an employer I would totally be open to hiring a sculptor if (big IF) they had the right skills and creative problem solving disposition.

Side note, the automotive industry often hires sculptors for clay modeling.

Thanks for the feedback. This is tremendously helpful.

I’m familiar with Marc Newson and have seen a few interviews of him. It’s encouraging to see someone with a craft and fine arts background make a name of himself as a designer, although I imagine that’s exceptionally rare.

Yo, what skills would you expect in a potential employee? Where could I find examples of what you would consider a killer portfolio, so I can begin to understand the approach to creating one?

Thanks again.

Often employers (CEO’s) aren’t designers, or artists. And the market goes with the flow, so, what is expected from you today may not be the same tomorrow. Many design office’s are working more and more with engineering, and hiring (engineers).

The automotive industry maybe the best career bet for you.

Thanks Nap. I’ll look into the auto industry.

For what it’s worth, I was a physics major my first two years of college before switching to art, so I have a strong math and physics background (up to multivariable calculus, differential equations, and EMT). But I do see what you are saying (at least from the perspective of someone outside of the profession) about the increasing number of engineers in design roles and why that might the case. Based on that, do you think industrial design is evolving into an engineering profession?

Hi there

The gap between design and manufacturing is of such a size that it is very advantageous to be an industrial designer with core engineering skills that take a product beyond prototyping phase. The best designers take into account opportunities from technology, marketing and user interaction fields in the earliest phase of a project and this requires a specific level of conceptual thinking. That varies for every target market and product group so it is good to specialize in a specific segment. If you already have a sense for design and professional skill set, you can already start working as a designer nowadays with portfolio-based hiring processes. You can start with products close to your comfort zone and further bridge the gap towards ID over the years. You can also specialize in sculpting for 3D scanning/printing and will be able to gain numerous clients. From there on you can start designing simple functional objects. The automotive world is a great opportunity but not easy to get in unless you have real experience. You can also look at robot design where there is a high demand for manufacturable but highly sculpted parts without necessarily having to comply with enormous amounts of technical requirements and regulations.

The least skills I would expect from a sculptor turning to ID, if I were hiring, are:

  • Mastering at least the knowledge to design for manufacturing processes for 2 material groups (plastics + metals for example)
  • Ability to run a 3D printer
  • Being able to quickly generate and sketch out product ideas to high detail
  • Great set of 3D CAD skills
  • Fair teamplayer and dealing with criticism

Since the light-bulb, progress as been circuits, and now software and A.I.

Industrial design is not turning into an engineering profession. In fact I’d say just the opposite with more emphasis being placed on strategic design, ethnographic research, and how design overlaps with brand. I think the designers who move to much toward engineering will be commoditized. Designers who move more toward strategic insights levering a business will continue to elevate. If you do have an engineering bent, it is better to be focused on problem solving difficult challenges and not on draft angles and DFM. DFM work is nice but ultimately can be commoditized, some times at the factory level, unless it is a totally new product/category. One a new category DFM work can be at a premium, but it doesn’t happen every day.

DFM certainly plays a major role in strategy if you are using good/better/best product categories. It will have impact on GP and nothing gets the c suite sitting upright more than improving GP.

I don’t think whether you want to be an upstream or downstream IDer will have much impact on an overall career. Both can get you places. I would only advise to play to your strengths.

Solid advice.

Thank you everyone for the help and advice! This means a lot!