Career in ID without the degree

Currently I’m studying architecture, but by the end of this year I’ll have no money remaining to continue paying for the necessary things for college, putting me in a bad situation. It was made worse by realizing that I have no desire to create buildings, but really only in the design of products. However my current school doesn’t offer Industrial design or product design as a field of study, and transferring will still keep me in the same situation.

So with all this worry going through my head, a crazy idea has come along that I could leave college, allowing me the time to support myself, and teach myself design. I already have good basics thanks to the time spent in architecture, but its obviously not enough currently to make applying for firms a good idea.

I’m not sure who would be best to talk to, however I did contact some firms in my area, and while only responded, they did state that a degree was “not a prerequisite, a great portfolio demonstrating skill and experience is.” which has just edged me closer to this decision.

So I come here to all of you, who are already out there working in design curious as to if this crazy thought of mine has any possibility, or is the field simply too competitive to go without the experience and knowledge you get from attending a 4 year ID program?


welcome to Core77

first of all, a bachelors in arch should satisfy the need for a degree. To an extent, design is design.
second, the differences will be in many of the pragmatic aspects of mass production and mass marketed products (another topic altogether) but this will constrain what you’re qualified to start designing. Take a look at Frank Ghery’s product line for Target or anything on the Alessi website. These represent your best types of products to get a start in ID, as opposed to medical or automotive. Many of the rock star designers do these lifestyle products exclusivly.
third, the portfolio is the most important thing, but not the only thing that gets you into the feild. Post a portfolio here as soon as you can and ask for feedback. Get an internship in a design firm (be willing to work for free to gain experience) it’ll be easier before you graduate. Ultimately there are lots of qualified people for any entry level postion, how well your personality fits within the firm can tip the balance, so there’s a bit of random chance involved.
work hard and good luck

if your portfolio is really good and has relevant projects in it, no one will notice you dont have an ID degree.

if your portfolio is full of architecture projects and mediocre product/industrial/interaction projects, it wont matter what your degree is in, you wont get the job.

so get your portfolio dialed!

… if your portfolio is really good and has relevant projects in it, no one will notice you dont have an ID degree.

Ever tried to go the other way… holding an ID degree and wanting to go to work in an architectural firm?

I actually known several IDers working in architecture. Especially a big firm that can afford to have licensed architects to create and sign off on drawings but want industrial designers to help think through the use of space and explore elevation development more… but these are exceptions, not the rule… which gets us right back on topic.

Anything is possible, but fewer things are probable. Yes, what you PROVE that you can do is the most important thing, and a portfolio is your largest piece of evidence in regards to your capabilities. A degree in ID is obviously going to help you build the strongest portfolio possible. All things being equal, if it comes down to you and another prospect, and you both have equally fantastically mind blowing portfolios, and feel like good fits for my team, I would personally select the candidate with the ID background in most cases.

I don’t want to discourage you, because you just may be the .01% exception to the rule that proves that probability is not 0. Not seeing your portfolio though, I can only make my recommendation based on probability, and that says that if you truly want be in industrial design, if that is where yo will be happiest, and most productive, then you should transfer to a school with a program immediately.

Haisi, you are getting some pretty good feedback and advice here, and Yo and the others are correct, it all comes down to your portfolio. If you can illustrate in your portfolio that you have the skills an employer is looking for then you will be considered for a position.

I graduated with an architecture degree, but while I was completing this degree I had the opportunity to also take several ID classes as the university I attended provided both degrees. While taking these ID classes, it was pretty clear to me that I was more passionate about industrial design. Even while participating in my architecture classes, I would look for ways to include aspects that would be more relavant from an ID perspective. The architecture program at my school offered a furniture design/fabrication class. I would discuss my ambitions with my architecture professors and they were very understanding. Several allowed me to develop my architecture projects to include aspects that would be more relavent to an ID portfolio. I designed furniture and gave more thought to the interior of my arch projects than I normally would. And honestly I think that my architecture professors actually enjoyed discussing ID projects. When I completed the architecture program I had a variety of projects to include for both ID and Architecture. I decided to interview for ID positions first, and would interview for archtecture positions only if I was unable to land an ID gig. Luckly I received an offer for an ID position and have now been in the field for 12 years.

I think that one of the biggest differences between ID and architecture deliverables in a portfolio is that it is expected to see more process in an ID portfolio. Architecture portfolios tend to just showcase the end design and the renderings/animations developed for the final design. When I am hiring for an ID position, I tend to look for the thought process behind design decisions that were made. I want to see examples of every step in the process (brainstorming, preliminary sketches, refined sketches/illustrations, 3D renderings, physical models and final product resolution). Sketching, more specifically, was never stressed in my architecture program, but it is only of the more important aspects of ID. I look to see how quickly and effectively an individual can express his thoughts when developing an ID concept.

My last peice of advice (for today) is that you shouldn’t be afraid to consider a masters degree in ID. I know that you probably facing the thought of repaying student loans for your arch degree and likely don’t want to take on any additional dept, but the combination of an architecture undergradute and a masters in ID will only make you much more marketable. It will also allow you to build up a much great understanding of the ID field.

Good luck, and feel free to provide your email if you want to talk more off-line.

What are your opinions on a mechanical engineer creating a design portfolio? Not applying for an ID position, but rather to bolster an application for mech eng position.

This is becoming more common, especially for MEs applying for design engineer jobs in design organizations… though rather off the original topic.