Currently ME - how to start in ID?

I’m thinking more and more I don’t want to go back to being just a CAD monkey making aluminum boxes.

I want to move towards ID, but I don’t know how to really get started. I think the first step is to go back to school and get a degree in ID, but I don’t know if I should get a master’s or start over and get a bachelor’s in ID.

I have no experience or portfolio other than an ArtCenter at Night class, and some random doodling. My engineering design work (the projects where I was allowed to be creative) are the possession of the military as well as the previous company I worked for, but I’ve got almost 7 years of design experience.

Any ideas?

perhaps do a short foundation course to get your drawing skills and creative juices flowing then try and get in to a masters in ID.

Alot of design firms actually have postions for ME’s (I believe the head Design Analyst of Design Continuum has a ME background rather than an ID background.), so that’s something you might want to check out, though you may end up being a CAD jockey there, too.

Best of luck.

I’m in the same boat, only I still have a year of school in ME to finish. I’m working for an industrial designer in a local engineering firm, and trying to find an internship in a true design firm. A portfolio is on my to-do list, but it’s hard to put something together when I have been at this for such a short time.

Is it possible to get into a graduate program in ID without a IDBA? I’d assumed you need to work your way up to learn some of the basics involving ways of thinking and how to solve problems. I don’t like the idea of being behind on my first day of class…

Thanks for your replies.

Go speak to the admissions people…or the tutors to see if you could get straight in.

most reputable schools won’t let you into a grad program without a bachelors, with the notable exceptions of Pratt and IIT.

This is because the profession doesn’t really need advanced ID academic training (and there is no real reward for having a Masters).
Also, academia has recognized that the Masters was meaningless for them as well, the common complaint is: it’s just 2 more years of undergraduate training - NASAD is working on this.

(By the way how many college offices could you walk up to cold, apply for a masters degree and expect to get in?)

Anyone have any opinions on Carnegie Mellon’s joint design/engineering program? Thus far, CMU and Standford are the only two joint programs that I am aware of. However, I have heard that the IIT program caters to ME’s pretty well also.

Your thoughts?

I started with a bachelor’s in ME too, and I made the switch by going to Art Center College of Design’s graduate industrial design program.

They’re open to applicants with various backgrounds and they are right on the cutting edge of strategic design, incorporating thinking from the human, business and technology perspectives for any project you work on. The first two terms let you catch up on tactile skill-building, and latter terms teach you to think strategically as a designer. It takes a very analytical approach to design (rather than just focusing on styling) and it’s a great transition for engineers.

Are engineers at Art Center common? From looking at their website I got the impression that one needs a really strong art background to be accepted. Did you go into art center with any previous art training? I had ruled Pasadena out because I didn’t think I would be able to get in without a stellar portfolio.

I wouldn’t say they are common at Art Center, but there are some. Best thing to do is to talk to the admissions people and department chair ahead of time about your own qualifications.

I think it is important for you to think about what it is exactly that you want.

If you just want to work in the design industry, there are a good amount of engineering jobs at traditional ID consulting firms. In these kinds of positions, you typically work directly with the ID folks during the concepting stages, but then you actually take things one step further and make ideas become a reality. On top of that, you will probably make higher salary in an ME position than an ID position. If you are just looking to go to ID school to learn how to draw/sketch your ideas better or more quickly, you will probably be able to accomplish that feat by taking some foundation classes and working on your sketching ability. If you want to get an ID background to help you strengthen your skill in design reserach, interaction design, usability, or a number of other skills possessed by great industrial designers - you may find a better educational path for your previous skill set than a traditional design degree. If you truly want to be an industrial designer, then there are some schools out there that will work with non-ID backgrounds - for example, IIT, NCSU, and Stanford are all reasonably well respected master’s degree programs that cater to those needs.

My advice would be to think long and hard about exactly what you forsee as your desired career direction before you commit to a masters or another undergrad program. That can be a huge expense that could be avoided if you would be willing to look for jobs outside of the traditional ID job title.

I have an engineering background (bs in bioprocess engineering)
and am currently working on a masters in ID at NC State University.

We have several engineers here… a few mechanical, electrical and biomedical as well. (actually we have 2 engineers who currently already have a masters in their field)

I am still working on not letting my practical background limit my creativity… but for the most part I have found that my engineering knowledge has been really useful. Knowing SolidWorks and ProEngineer has really helped me learn Alias, and I taught myself how to use Rhino. Its also nice because you know physically why certain ideas won’t work or don’t work, you know how to collect and interpret data, you can write a technical report, and you can speak the lingo with other engineers you may be working with.

We have a 3 year program here for non-ID undergrads, and I like it because you have studio with people from all different backgrounds so you get lots of different perspectives. It also makes for a really interesting mix of people and we are all pretty good friends.

So far this year I have taken two ideation classes, the first focusing on sketching skills and the second on material rendering and working with markers/pastels. They also encourage you to design what you are sketching and teach you about page layouts and presentation. I took a metal-working class last semester and am currently building a chair for my wood-working class. I am learning Alias (which I am excited about because I think once I learn it it will be so much easier to do cool stuff with than Solidworks) and I have taken two studios (this one we are focusing on ergonomics for our first project and then working on one of our own ideas for the second half of the semester)

As for my portfolio, I used some sketches and artwork I had worked on at home. I also put my senior design project and a reverse engineering project in my portfolio (noting the design importance of each). I added a page of work I did in ProE as well to show that I was already comfortable with 3D modeling software.

I was really worried about whether or not it was a good idea to go back to school for my masters… but I am glad that I did. Don’t let the lack of a great portfolio stop you… try to work on some sketches at home and pull things from your engineering background that shows you can be creative. Talk to the heads of the ID departments at different schools and see what they are looking for and you can try to cater your portfolio to their requirements.

good luck!

I attended Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Product Development program, so I thought I’d answer Aaron_L’s question. I have a background in mech E and I loved the program. It is not only joint engineering/industrial design, but also includes business classes and business students, which I think makes it unique. I have an engineering background, but felt right at home in my ID and business classes. CMU has a fabulous interdisciplinary attitude and also is very encouraging of entrepreneurship. I think that this type of program is good for engineers to get into ID because you won’t feel “behind.”

As for industrial designers who might tell you you should be an engineer in a design firm instead of being an industrial designer, don’t listen to them. That’s what I was told over and over again, but I decided that what I really wanted was to be an industrial designer. And as an industrial designer your engineering skills will give you an advantage. I ended up becoming more of an “interdisciplinary designer” but because of my industrial design experience, I can be accepted in both worlds.

My suggestions to “get started”: I took continuing ed ID classes at Pratt and MassArt, and attended IDSA conferences to get a better idea of what the industry is like, and to network. I took an unpaid internship with an industrial designer. I made a portfolio of my continuing ed stuff and some engineering projects. People will be impressed with any portfolio from an engineer. I used this portfolio to get a job for a year as an engineer in a product development company, before deciding that I really wanted to do more ID work. Then I picked a masters program. Now I am working as a designer and loving it.