changing career from I.D. to Architecture

Hi, I’m thinking of making this move. I would like to hear from anybody who has made this move. Does I.D. education and experience get you any time off a 4 year BArch. degree ? Was the move worth it ? What were your reasons ? Any regrets or triumphs ?

I’m currently in Kansas City where architecture firms outnumber design firms 20:1 and I can tell you that without an Architecture degree your chances of landing a good job at an architecture firm are slim.

I’ve interviewed at a number of the big and small ones here in town, as have many of my friends, and we all generally get the same line “well…we’re just not sure what you would do here”. They don’t see the crossovers between design and architecture. Its fine for an architect to make furniture, but it isn’t fine for an industrial designer to work on buildings. Thats how they feel about it.

I had a great discussion one day with a principal at HOK architects about how “design is design” and how we can always find commonality in each others work that allows an architect to understand product design, and a product designer to understand architecture. While he agreed on principal that this was in many ways the case, he still couldn’t figure out what on earth an industrial designer could do at an architecture firm. We would walk past desks where people were designing computer models for a building, building scale models for an upcoming project, creating graphics, etc…nothing.

See it might “look” like graphic design…but its really architectural environmental graphics - totally different, you wouldn’t understand.

I’m getting out of architecture and going into product design.

A few things:

  1. Licensure: You will need a degree in Architecture to sit for your license, so you have to decide how serious you are about it and how long you want to stay in it. 5-year degrees (B.Archs) will make you eligible for licensure after your professional internship (about 3 years typ.). A 4-year degree (B.A.) doesn’t leave you eligible, but you can go back to school for a grad degree to become so (about 2-3 years typ.) If you have a B.Arch, you can shave some time off of your M.Arch (1-2 years typ, depending on program). Even with a B.Arch you need a grad degree to teach. Many creative and independent folks go the teaching route because the profession sucks so much.

  2. Reality: As with most things, the profession of Architecture is completely different from the study of it. Expect old boy clubs, locker room talk, and corporate hierarchy in the larger, older U.S. firms. In the smaller firms, expect a boy genius at the top who throws temper tantrums and hires other little boys dressed in grunge/60’s chic to do his bidding.

  3. Money, Money, Money: Expect little if any pay. The more interesting and cutting-edge the firm you choose, the smaller your paycheck because boy geniuses have scores of rich boys to pick from.

  4. Get out of town: When you graduate, seek out professional experiences abroad. They’ll remind you why you wanted to be an architect in the first place. The U.S. has its head stuck so far up its ass architecturely, it can see its own bricks being made. So to speak. (That one was for Boston!)


In conclusion, product design, here I come. Ha ha ha. Out of the fire, into the frying pan!

thanks for the info. guys !

I’ve been doing a little research and calling some universities about Architecture programs. My conclusion is a Masters of Architecture program in 3 years from Berekely or similar school on top of my I.D. degree. (you don’t need to have an undergraduate BArch for this)It’s about 8k per year school fee’s and is a highly recognised program. The competition to get a place is pretty fierce…over 200 applied and 25 were given places, however, they were very interested in people with an I.D. background…I am thinking about it. After the 3 year program, it takes about a year to get Cal. licensure.

The reason I am thinking about this career move is the long term prospects, the value this career can give back to society (schools, hospitals, religious buildings etc…) and it seems Architects are more respected and recognised in the eyes of the public.

Anybody with any further experiene or relative opinions, please chime in here and let us know your thoughts…

also remember that most architecture in US is done through development. firms are directly tied to develpers and developers want to save as much money as they can on a project. you end up doing things like trimming cost on windows and frames as a junior architect. sometimes the developer will just come in with a cd of plans and tell you i want the plans exacly like this but %5 larger or smaller. or some other type of modification. as an architect it’s your job to enlarge the wall section in acad but leave the doors where they are. you might as well sweep the dirt under the carpet too.


avoid that.


the best projects go to hotshot architects who you see in the arch mags! they probably got their first shot in a party.

i met pete morton who’s the owner of this famous hotel in vegas (it’s called morton’s i think) at a private party in hollywood (my friend’s father was a famous hollywood director). at that time he had the morton’s restaurant and the hard rock cafe in LA and had sold off the one in SF.

he invited me to his office which was right behind the morton’s restaurant ( he had this bronze statue of kieth richards smoking a joint, freaked me out) and asked me to do a restaurant for him but i told him i wasn’t ready and truly i wasn’t because i’d just finished undergrad and wanted to take off to italy for masters and i really had no idea how to design it. i was absolutely blank and i didn’t like to bullshit with people.

but that’s how you get projects. well atleast in LA.

to be one of the hotshots in US you need to establish your own firm and pick your projects wisely, knowing your client and the possible potential to show your work, but i think you have to be at the right place and at the right time and be very prepared to take on any project immediately. otherwise you’ll just have to forget about it.

What about the program at Cranbrook? What do you know about it? What are your thoughts? Here is the link: Arch R. Winter | Cranbrook Academy of Art

I don’t think the Cranbrook program in architecture is “professional.” that is, if you don’t already have the five-year BArch, getting a degree from there won’t help you. From the work I’ve seen come out of the school, it’s all very interesting and some of it is actually product-oriented. Plus, I’m sure there’s some back-and-forth between the ID and architecture programs there, since it’s such a small school and all. But, if you’re looking to break into architecture, I’m not sure it’s the right place. Interesting, to be sure, but a bit out of left field for someone who’s not already trained as an architect.

^^ Cranbrooks program is not accredited one; which you will need to get your license down the road.

I was half way through an Architecture program at the U of Detroit Mercy and made some quick decisions that were mentioned above: Unless you go abroad, find a hotshot company to work for, or be at the top of a smaller firm, you will be very unhappy at what you are forced to design. Not a lot of people want to pay for real architectual designs in the US. It’s a lot of pre-fabricated modular crap that sells. There is still hope out there though, and you just have to muck through it to get to designing what you want.

I’m making the switch this fall to an ID program. Architecture is an awesome program and seems to be a very good buisness. If ID doesn’t fit me better I will be going back to the SOA. Good luck!

i have figured out that with an i.d. degree you can do a 5 year BArch degree or a 3 year (posibly 2 year, DOE) to get your initial architectural certification here in the U.S. (further experience is necessary to become AIA, recognised…)

my question now is…how well does a certified U.S. architect fair in europe, australia or asia ? is this U.S. certification recognised and respected in these continents (per the mentioned route)

MTD : do you think there is more creative latitude with architecture in other places besides the U.S. ?

thanks people !

oops, the 3 year (possibly 2 year, DOE) is a MArch. (masters of architecture)