Career Change - Please Advice - Thank you!

Did you get a job by getting a degree in design?

  • I got a degree then a job.
  • I’m self taught.

0 voters


I have a quick question. I’ve done web design for the past 5 years, but after working on the project for watch design I got really interested in product design and would love to get into the field.

The problem I have is that I know Photoshop and Illustrator and I love to sketch and draw, but I don’t know if that would be sufficient to get the job in the product industry. I’m teaching myself Rhino, because someone mentioned it can be used for Watch design. I would love to design anything from watches to jewelry to bags and accessories. Unfortunately I went to school for something else and I can’t work internship job since living in NYC is expensive and I need a full time paying job to pay rent.

Can someone recommend me software that can be self taught or any other ideas to get into product design field. Do I need to do my portfolio (simple drawings or Photohsop/Illustrator digital format)? basically anything that might guide me?

Also If you work or got a job in this type of design without taking design classes I would love to hear more about it. I’m very creative and would love to pursue something where I can express my creativity.

Thank you very much in advance for all your help and advice.

Jim Stark

Take a look at the qualification requirements listed by companies hiring entry-level Product Designers–this will definitively answer your question. Also, why not talk to that watchmaker and see what they’d require of that position?

I can see how watch design would be tempting for a GD’er–it’s very 2D as far as products go. Unfortunately, unless your client is SWATCH, they’re probably going to require the standard ID skillset. Check out for definitive info on what those skills include.

Hope that helps.

From IDSA: “You need at least a Bachelor of Arts degree from an accredited university or design school.”

I actually have BA but not for arts.
Do you know any product designers that got a job only having knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator or do yo need other software?

Thank you for the links

ID and Graphic design are related but not the same. I had worked as a product designer for many years (and have a degree in ID.)

Currently I am studying Graphic Design although not pursuing another degree. Having the ID background helps (and got out of a ton of prerequisite classes) but I find these fields to be very different.

The only software I didn’t know was page layout software. If I stopped taking classes after learning Quark or InDesign I still wouldn’t have the skills required to do graphic design… well.

I’m not saying you will need another degree but if you really want to get into this field you need to learn more than software!

I know of some designers that have no knowledge of illustrator and photoshop. It’s not the the knowledge of the ‘tools’ that makes a product designer but the knowledge of the process and the requirements of manufacturing the product(s).

You could be a stylist, and just make products pretty, but as a designer you could make them pretty AND well manufactured AND easy to use. (plus potentially, recyclable etc)

In your case it might be possible to apply for that watch job, as it sounds like you’ll be just ‘styling’ the product to fit existing componentry.
take a look at the idsa link provided above, it will detail out more aspects of design.

here’s a direct link to a pertinent page

forget software. learn about industrial design. what the job really is.

If going full time to school again isn’t financially possible, I think you still have hope. Even though the IDSA advices getting a degree, we IDers are not architects, we don’t have permits to be IDers. However, I would advice at least taking a few classes part time. I know my university offered materials and human factors classes to anyone, and you will need this knowledge if you pursue ID.

Moreover, you will need to bulk up your portfolio in a product way. I would recommend getting some ID books. Such as Product Design and Development for general development, Industrial Design: Materials and Manufacturing by Jim Lesko for a little manufacturing background and Creating Breakthrough Products by Cagan and Vogel for some research concepts. After doing a little reading, assign yourself a project in your free time. Perhaps by this point though, you won’t like ID anymore.

If you still like ID, I would recommend finding an area you think you would enjoy. If it is watches, do some watch projects. Make physical models as well, not just computer. Although, get ahold of a designer at a prospective company and find out what they use and learn that.

Lastly, be prepared to fight like hell. There are probably lots of people who will be intimidated to hire a GDer as an IDer. But, if you have the talent, and can demonstrate you are ready for the transition, it is possible.