About two years ago I decided that I wanted to become an industrial designer. The problem was that at this time I was in my third year of a psychology degree (now completed). At the time I was reluctant to switch thinking the mature thing to do was finish my degree. Upon finishing I began looking for work in ID. After many resounding nos, I approached a small firm and offered to work for free. This worked and I got my first yes (subsidizing this by working nights at a bar). My employer reassuringly suggested that there is a lot I can learn on the job.

I have been way over my head but so far i’ve been able to keep up. I have learned a lot about the the design/manufacture process and have become familiarized with solid works. Pro e, ashlar vellum graphite, and adobe CS. My drawing (already better than most) has also come a long way. I gather things are going well as my employer has suggested that in a month if things are still working out we may be able to negotiate a salary.

i think the work experiance has taught me a lot and I think I can count on a decent reference but still the fact remains. I have no formal training what so ever. I have heard from varied sources that design education mostly serves to develop a students portfolio.

I am considering going back to school but It seems like a massive investment of time and money.


Is it possible for me to continue working and gain the skills and portfolio I need on the job to be able to work in the industry and be taken seriously as a designer? I would like to make a career out of this but I don’t want to go back to school unless I have to.

What can I expect if I continue on this path without going back to school…
Anyone Please?

I think a quote from the architect Michael McDonough says it pretty well

Talent is one-third of the success equation.
“Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I’m wrong, just look around.”

I would just continue to get as much work experience as you can and build social contacts within your cities design and business community. At some point you might be able to find an employer who will help you get a masters degree and you can study industrial design then.

This is one of those careers where having secondary knowledge can be a real plus, especially if you are with a company that is involved in research, planning, or similar pursuits. Having an understanding of people, how they think, and how they behave will never be a bad skill. This is true of design, marketing, advertising, business, etc.

If you haven’t already I would check out the books by Donald Norman. He writes extensively about the relationship between design and psychology and has a lot of material which you can draw from to gain insight. I would try “The design of everyday things”, “emotional design”, and “the invisible computer”.

I think whether you go back to school or keep working what to expect will be the same - long hours, hard work, and learning as you go. I went to design and engineering school for five years thinking I was going to be a product designer and I now work solely in retail and environmental design. I love what I do but it is still a challenge to work on new things and solve problems.

I agree with mm.

I hesitate to to writ ethis, because it pretty much flies in the face of what I’ve been communicating in here, but for .o1 % of people, it works out for them to jump right into the feild. You have a foothold doing design, keep doing it. If you feel you need the education at somepoint, you can take night classes towards a masters. But you got a foot in the door, don’t back out.

Sometimes, some people just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and they have the personality to optomize it.

For all the 99.99% of people, everything else I’ve said holds true.

looking at my collection of books, aquired over the years, i find as many titles regarding marketing or engineering as i do id…i have found that a few multifunctional people are far better than a large multifunctional development team…they work faster and they produce better designed product