can an engineer be a industrial designer?

Im a mechanical engineering student with an Associates degree, and will have my Bachelor’s in 1 year. Im not happy with what im learning in engineering and I know I much rather do industrial design. I am thinking about dropping engineering for design, but I am close to finishing. I look at company’s and careers that need an industrial designer with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Design, If I have an engineering degree, can I be a industrial designer without an industrial design degree?

The degree isn’t what is important about an industrial design graduate. It’s the 4 (or 5) years of portfoilo work, the experience of working with a team of designers and other disciplines, etc.

Your portfolio is what gets you a job. If you plan on going into a design field with no portfolio then consider what your chances are given that you wouldn’t have one. There is a lot of competition out there and while it’s always possible to get a job, it’ll be an uphill battle.

If you’re not happy with what you’re doing and you know you WANT to do ID then you’d be better off not wasting another years worth of time and tuition on your engineering degree and see what you can transfer over towards a bachelors in ID.

Ryin - I have an ME degree and was in the same boat during school. I work as a design engineer at a product design consulting firm and I love my job.

The first thing that you need to keep in mind is that ME’s do not use most of the technical stuff that you learn in school on a regular basis in the workplace. Secondly, there is almost always a need for a strong engineering team alongside any great ID team. An ME that has an innate respect and understanding of ID is extremely rare and valuable to most design orgainizations. Fortunately, this does not mean that you also need to have a formal design education on top of your engineering education.

I reccommend that you go out and try to get an internship or co-op in an engineering role @ a design oriented company (an actual design firm would be ideal). If you still find that you do not like engineering, then I would consider restarting you entire education to focus solely on ID.

Good luck and feel free to PM me.

My strong advice is to learn either Pro/E (preferably) or Solidworks. I’m an Industrial Designer who is self taught. I got my current job without much experience because I had a strong portfolio. Now I have products that I designed personally in Target, Best Buy and many others.

Back to Pro/E. I use it to design, which is kind of rare but trust me when I tell you its the best modeling software out there. Anyone who argues hasn’t seen its full capabilities. Also, type Pro/E into and you’ll find plenty of postings. I STOPPED COUNTING AT 50!!! One offered $38-48 an hour. Another said minimal experience needed.

I know this sounds like a commercial but seriously I have nothing to gain from telling you this. But I think this would suit you perfectly since you are coming from an engineering backround. There is a variety of fields you can get into with strong software knowledge.

I do know Solidworks, and have used pro/e in school. I have worked at a company doing tool design and some manufacturing engineering for the past 4 summers. I did put together a portfolio for a scholarship, it doent have anything innovative of follow suit with industrial design, it has more technical things like prints. it also contains other arts such as video (I do wedding videography on the side) photographs, a clay sculpture, a water color painting, and 2D design project from an art class I had.

Now I have products that I designed personally in Target, Best Buy and many others.

Thats what I want to see out of my career is to have my design on the market.

Seeing your product on a store shelf is totally rad. (to borrow some 80’s slang)

There’s nothing to it but to do it. You already have an advantage over where I started based on your education. Just start using the tools you know to beef up your portfolio. Start designing things you are interested in and create some good looking renders. A great rendering goes a long way. We use them all the time for both client presentations and communication tools for our China factory. I use Alias Image Studio for rendering. Its a bit limited, but it has a nice render engine in it and its fast and easy to work with, which is important in the real world.

I think designers take what we do for granted sometimes but if you show the average person a realistic looking rendering and tell them you did it they are often mystified. Its a great way to impress chicks. :wink:

Good Luck!!

I am often amazed at seeing some good renderings, they look so realistic and very professional. are there any good tutorials for rendering on the web? Im using Solidworks 2008 right now, and it has a feature called PhotoWorks which for rendering, but im not sure how good it is, or where to start

Being one year away from a bachelor’s, you should really finish. There is no downside to having an engineering degree. It can be applied to almost all fields in some way, including ID. Take a drawing class or two. Check out these basic DVD’s. They will take you a long way. There are a number of other resources that you can find if you search for them. I’ve learned as much from the gnomon DVD’s and other books as I have from instructors in class.

Good Books:“carl-liu”-design-book.htm


I also agree with what cdaisy and kwilson7 have said above. You’re almost there, finish off your ME degree, after that find a position within a reputable firm doing 3d modeling and learn the ID principles from the staff. You could also play the trump card and ask the firm to pay for your master’s degree in ID while you work for them as long as you have good ROI reasoning to back up your request for further education.

P.S. I have plenty of friends who have ME jobs that work within ID firms as 3d modelers, they love their jobs, so your goal is obtainable. Don’t give up!

I have a friend who is a designer. They have a Bachelors degree from a top notch school in ID and they got a job as a engineer manager. This was odd because they have no pro-E, solidworks or catia experience what so ever. However, they were offered almost 100k a year with bonuses. They even bragged how they have zero experience and were managing others with the degreed experience.

This was for one of the big companies so I just assume that the “family and friends” theory is at work here.

That being said if a designer can cross over into an engineering spot then I guess the same should be true for an engineer. For some strange reason most recruiters think industrial designers are engineers anyway. Most anyone can be an engineer now even the janitor guy. They are called maintenance engineers.

However, with what’s been happenning in ID fields do you really want to go into creative design??? Seems like you might have more options as a engineer than a creative person. In design, one wrong move to the wrong person and your career is done. My $0.02.

hi ryin,

I was in a similar boat as you. I decided to do a BS in Mech. E. i hated it after my 3rd year and wanted to do ID it just seemed so cool. But as others have mentioned, employers do value that mechanical engineering degree you completed. after all its 4 years of hard work.

I did a masters program in product development right after my undergrand (completed it in a year) but i focused a lot of my courses/electives in ID classes so I would have some work to show employers.

Noe ive got my design job and i cant wait to start.

hey ryin,

you and i are in the same exact boat. However even though I’m in my third year now of mechanical i still have two years to go because of all the crazy classes and I was little behind. I just transfered from a CC to UF and I also have been realizing I hate all the classes I am taking. I’ve been debating to drop the major as well, since what i’ve really always wanted to design things not crunch numbers and manufacture others products. Let me know if you find a good transition into the design world as thats what I really want to do and I am stressing out so bad with my predicament. Also design seems like a major you must got to a tech school, which might be a problem financially for me.


Finish the degree you’re on, while practicing sketching and documenting ideas.

I was in the same boat at you doing Engineering. I got my degree, took a year out to learn stuff and put a portfolio together. You may then be able to do a Masters using your BSc as a first degree, then go from there. It worked for me, and the engineering degree will give you extra cred as an Industrial Designer.

Go for it!

Finish your degree, but if possible use some of your electives to take social science courses like Sociology, Social Anthropology and even Psychology. There is a fundamental difference between Engineers and Designers. Engineers are Technology-centered and Designers are Human-centered. In more plain terms, Engineers are more concerned with the needs of the factory while Designers are more concerned with the needs of the user.

I have friends who double degreed in ID and ME, but it was there centering on the user that made them strong designers. If you can make this mental shift you should be okay.

I was in this exact same boat. I suggest: Finish your ME degree, but take other classes that are art or human behavior oriented. Then get an ME job preferably in a company which has industrial designers you can meet and work with, and in a city which has a decent design school. Then you do ME, save as much money as you can and learn about ID and product engineering during the day, and take art and design classes at night. Then after a year or so you will know whther you really want to do ID, and will have some money to pay for school, or an employer who will pay for your classes. This is what I did, but it took me about 5 years by the time i got my MID. It was well worth it.

Tim is right about ID and ME having totally different mindsets, but in the interface between the two a lot of innovation happens.

Hello all, here’s my first post! I’m reading this with great interest as I’m in a similar situation and thought I’d bump this thread rather than start a new one.

I’m from the UK and have a Mechanical Engineering masters degree, and have been working in the aerospace industry for a good few years now, mainly working with CAD (Catia v5). I’ve always wanted to do product/industrial design though, so I’ve taken the plunge and applied for a course. I’ve been lucky enough to get an interview BUT a recent law coming into force this academic year means that those doing another qualification of equal or lower status to one you already have will not be eligible for any state subsidy or funding, which leaves me looking at tuition fees of £26,000 per annum! I’m considering my options, but it’s not looking likely that I’ll be able to afford that. (The course is a combined MSc/MA by the way, and I already have an MEng).

All of which leaves me with the thought of directly applying for an ID job straight off the bat. I do have a portfolio, but I’m not especially happy with it as it was cobbled together in a matter of weeks from assorted scans of sketches and notes (although it did help get me that interview with the design school I suppose). The actual product design side of it is lacking - got plenty of ideas, just not much in a presentable format. There is much more in the way of things associated with the punk label I run and band I play in in my spare time (flyers, sleeves, adverts) all of which are graphical exercises more than anything else. Plus I’m not much of an artist, though I’m working on it.

Apologies for the boring life story! I’m just after any advice / a hug.

[By the way, that law coming into effect is called the “Equivalent Or Lower Qualification (ELQ) ruling” if UK people want to look it up.]

Hi everyone,

I to graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and started to work in the plumbing/fire protection field but realized that it wasn’t for me. I noticed that a lot of you on this post were asking transitioning from mechanical engineering to a product designer. This field interests me, but besides being a designer in the product/innovation/industrial design field, what else can someone apply for with my degree?

Also, does anyone know of any job openings and companies in NYC?

Thanks in advance for the help.

Can I be an ME with no ME degree?

I wanted to warm up this thread since I have the same problem:
I studied aerospace engineering with a focus on product development and Im currently developing aircraft as a concept design engineer. Meaning I consider user requirements and scenarios to develop a first 3D package model of the aircraft in CATIA, while doing aerodynamic, performance calculations and mass predictions. Since I have the feeling that the likelyhood of designing an aircraft that will actually fly tends to go to zero in my current environment, I thought to change my focus to Industrial Design, since it seems pretty close to my current work and I always wanted to introduce more design styling features in my work (which follows currently only engineering objectives). I thought about joining the Industrial Design Intensive course at UMEA as a first step to learn more about the basics in design and continue from that. Any thoughts?