Career Change... to ID...?

I’m hoping someone experienced in the ID industry can point out a few directions that may be good for me.

I got my BS in Electrical Engineering and have been working in the corporate environment 4 years. I’m about half finished with my MBA. I don’t have any mentionable experience in design.

I’ve been contemplating going back to school for my BA in ID for the last three years. Because of my past education and job experience, I doubt I’ll finish the program. My ideal situation is to get the foundations in ID (some of these skills I want to develop for personal reasons/enjoyment) along with getting a solid footing in design. After this happens and I’ve got a few internships in, and hopefully my foot in the door somewhere, I’ll probably try to find a job.

I’d like to find a place in ID somewhere between engineering and design… and eventually management. I know I could try to go into management now, but I really want to study the subject… plus there’s nothing worse than someone managing something they know nothing about.

I don’t have dilussions of grandure about ID. I just want to be in the environment - even if it’s corporate.

Is the ID job market really that bad?


In my opinion, if you want to design products, you’ll need to get your ID degree. If you want to manage talent, I’d finish my MBA with a focus in marketing. It seems in a lot of the corporate gigs that I’ve had, the marketing department has a strong say in design if there isn’t a strong ID presence.

BA in Electrical Engineering, didn’t know there was such a thing as a Bachelor of Arts in that? Anywho I wouldn’t think this would be a step in the right direction for you the job market and outlook for a EE is outstanding no matter where you go. ID jobs will offer less in the way of salary and prospects. Some people are having a rough time makking enought change to pay the student loan bills.

Oops, I mean BS… I’ve got BA on the brain.

I know the EE job market it good. I just don’t like it. It’s not my calling. I want to do something more satisfying and be in an artistically creative environment.

I’ll be focusing on Marketing in my MBA. I want to go in for ID because I have a personal interest in learning more about design and developing my artistic skills. Doing actual design would be great, but if I’d be content just working in the environment.

I don’t have the warped reality of becoming the next big designer. I’m just trying to find a niche in the ID world where my technical background will benefit, but not dominate. I’m also trying to figure out if the market would really be that bad for someone with my education and experience - given that having a straight-up product design job isn’t a must.


You sound like you would be way overqualified for the majority of hands-on design jobs. Marketing MBA’s in design organizations are a huge asset to the design efforts of a company. Many marketing people come to the product development world with cheesy dot-com experiences that have nothing to do with the realities of producing a product. Any large product-producing company would bring you into their marketing group and you’d probably managing design deliverables. In my experience however, if you were in a product planning position, the design team would resent aesthetic direction from you because they would say that they know better.

ID boils down to having an artistic or mechanical intuition and feeling for things, in order to be successful. More marketing knowledge would make you a better manager of the prod-dev process but probably not a better designer.

Sounds like a typical case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Life is just not set up this way.

ID is not something to “dabble” in, that’s what hobbies are for. An ID degree will help in finding a creative design job but that doesn’t seem your primary interest, which is pretty much fatal today in such a competitive field. Doing it half hearted is to guarantee failure.

Better stick to your management ambitions, combining your MBA with some sideline design courses, but strictly to broaden your general knowledge about the different aspects of product design, and how it fits current business models. Your engineering background will help your credibility better to a long and lucrative management career where personality and human skills, in any case, count way above technical knowledge of any specific field.

Get your MBA and make big money and enjoy life.

But if you are a clinically certified sadist then by all means jump into this filthy pit and rott with me and my fellow industrial designer. You can then join us and think about what you could have been for eternity.

You said it Pimpmobile - it’s like living in a jail cell and the door is open, but you feel compelled to stay because you like it there but you could live in a big house in the hamptons - you have the degree, but it’s a degree in manual labor, spotty employment, working on crap products telling yourself “the next project will be better”, and being treated like a high schooler among fellow engineers and managers - being their whipping boy.

Sorry for venting, but it is tough! and not a week goes by when I say to myself “in 15 years I’ll have a family and a house and I’ll be making 60k per year maybe 70k, which sounds decent but not for a 50 year old!”

With that said it is rewarding and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t, but you hit the nail on the head.

run forrest run! lol! don’t change careers you will regret it, both china and india are pressing forward to be a cheap source of labour for computer design/animation it won’t be long till we see this made and designed in china or india. people in id have a wave coming they won’t be able to stop.

I too have been considering moving into ID, and have also been keeping a close eye on China and India’s effect on the job market. All indications here and elsewhere suggest that this wholesale career change would be a rather foolish waste of time, effort, and money for this 35-year-old, the MBA alternative is looking better every day.

But back to China and India. If design in the US is destined to decay into another cheap imported Wal-Mart commodity, what opportunities might there be for design management? I would expect these Asian designers might need some cultural guidance among other things if they’re expected to design for the Western consumer, especially those consumers who pay more for good design. Would this require an MBA? Or a design degree with an MBA?

Always remember… no company ever went abroad to hire cheap executives!

I wouldn’t worry so much about id going to china or india - the manufacturers want someone close to the american consumer (the American marketplace is the largest in the world, with all others viewed as peripheral to global manufacturers)

I would worry much more about the thousands of new grads every year coming out of the ever growing number of ID programs.

hmmm??? mba maybe if your a buyer for wal-mart corporate if you do computer animation or anything that can be done on a computer you better start worrying. the bulk of the work will be outsourced in due time, mba might be a good way to move into management but if you have no background or exp. this will not be very valid for changing careers as a quick search of monster shows exp. is key. engineers are not safe either 50% of the top schools in the usa have foreign students in them mostly from china and india. good suggestion is to read Prestowitz’s book 3 billion new capitalists.

diamon dave;

good career as an emt won’t be outsourced hehe don’t be too sure about id not being a victim, these people in china & india are becoming like the west and changing the culture of the landscape from what it once was. saying id won’t go to here or there is wishful thinking japan did it so did korea and hong kong.

I don’t see where I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too. I’m willing to put in the time, work and risk. Approaching something while seeking advice and doing research, in attempt to be successful on some level, doesn’t seem abstract. Last time I checked life works fairly well when it’s approached this way.

If I’m quitting a career and going back to study ID I’m obviously prepared to do more than “dabble.” I’ve never done anything like this half-hearted. I’m passionate and would love a creative design job. However, I realize ID is fiercely competitive and I’m trying to approach it realistically so that disenchantment about the business world doesn’t overwhelm me. I prefer to finish the degree before I get a job, but after talking with a few friends in ID they recommended I approach it carefully with a “might finish” mind-set. So, if I’m not up to par with everyone else I’ll still have enough understanding and experience to effectively work with designers somewhere in the design field.

Every field has a wide array of career directions. I plan to aim high, but if I miss I want a place to settle without being too dissapointed… hence my original question of where someone with my background might fit in best.

I know financially I’d be better off with my current path, but if that was a major concern I wouldn’t be here. Been there, done that… money is nice, but it isn’t everything.

Thanks for the advice so far… much appreciated.

If ID is something you’re passionate about then I say go for it but as people say here in the midwest, don’t bet the farm on it.

You should realize that things are very competitive right now and you will have to seriously develope your skills to become competitive. Because you already have a background in electrical engineering I’d think you would be a good fit at a design firm that designs handheld devices or is involved in interaction design. Companies like Motorola, Palm, Dell, etc would also have an appreciation for someone that can do design and be sensitive to the needs of the electrical engineers.

If you are considering the MBA route I can tell you from personal experience that you need to go to a good program, at least in the top 50 tier. There are so many backwater MBA’s out there that many people now question whether the degree is even worth it anymore. If you go to “no name community national university” no one will care, so make it count.
Most of the good programs also require that you have a minimum of five years work experience in a particular field, so keep that in mind.

we have staff members w/ dual degrees . . . me and id. ee, mba - mkting and id doesn’t sound bad. good skills in each discipline should take you to the top of the heap. luck, hard work and perseverance is what it’s all about.

I know at least 2 ID pro’s without a degree (one, my sister, is extremely successful), and a number of professionals who arent impressed with degrees. The people who bulid their portfolio from the ground up are oft. the best.

That said, the same can be said for art and writing – average designers/writers/artists are dime a dozen. You want in, this is what you do:

  1. Keep your job.
  2. Buy a cad or modelling package of some sort. There are other ways to get one, but they are very, very, very bad :slight_smile:.
  3. Start designing in the evenings. When you become average, start giving yourself difficult projects, and finish them (this is what most people dont do). If you want some guidance, check out boards like this one or for people who are working in CAD.
  4. From the get go, be playing with hacks and tricks. They can also be found on boards.
  5. Record everything you do on an online portfolio (better a webpage than a blog so you can search past projects easier).
  6. As your online portfolio starts to develop, find people who do CAD hiring and drop them occasional emails to discuss where you are. is a good place to start looking for contacts. Ask to meet with them and buy them lunch some wendsday so you can pick their brain about where/how to get a job.
  7. Eventually your relationship will pay off and you will land a solid entry level job.
    :sunglasses: Decide whether you want to be a graphic designer at an entry level or an engineer with experience (the old what you want to do versus what you want to make debate).

Your equation for being in the envirnment might work. I have a BFA in ID and am considering the marketing MBA to help me leverage a design director position in the future. Marketing is a powerful asset and can certainly get your foot in the door of a creative organization.

I can’t believe you are considering giving up EE, but I gave up ME in college for IND…oh well…

This is really a complicated question. Are there family responsibilities you need to factor in? Are you having problems keeping a EE job? Are you just bored with EE work? Is it possible that this is a transitory problem (take an asprin and call me in the morning…)?

You know, as heavy manufacturing bleeds out of the US (I am assuming here that you are in the US, but this might apply if you are not) ALL jobs will eventually go away! THere will be few people with enough to buy that big mac or pay a carpenter (save the independently wealthy). EE, IND, ARCH, ME, CE, MBA, PHD - all will eventually have limited use (barring radical trade policy changes).

If you are in a position where you are making good money KEEP THAT JOB and take evening classes. You could even start with art since you seem to be gravitating toward that side of IND. Build some skills, if it looks OK try a leave of absence from EE to work on IND.

IF you can parlay the EE/IND degrees/experience into a desirable IND job there is a GOOD CHANCE that the employer will also have you doing EE work. Why would they not? How would you feel about this?

BTW… I should explain that my college called Industrial Design “IND” and our degrees were Bachelor and Master of Industrial Design - B.IND or, you guessed it, M.IND. Always kinda cracked me up for some sadistic reason…

Name above should have been “imaguest2” not ima. Cute, don’t you think?