Design Staff Training

Greetings all,

About six months ago I was tapped to step into a management role at my company and am now at the helm of a small design staff comprising of myself and 4 junior-level designers. Given my 15+ years of design experience, I definitely know what I’m doing when it comes to the design work my company handles. However I face the challenge of trying to train up the younger designers and I’m wondering if anybody out there has any experience or tips on how to do that.

A little more background:

We work in the packaging and temporary POP display industry (corrugated displays) and we have a separate group of highly talented and experienced structural designers. They can take just about any concept we throw at them and make it reality in terms of production and structure. However they look to our group to come up with the cool ideas, which usually involves a curious blend of 3D and 2D design skills. I find that my ID degree is ideal for this as I have been trained to think in both aspects. The challenge is that the rest my team, in addition to being young and pretty green, are all coming from a 2D/Graphic Design background and definitely struggle to think in terms of 3D structure and space.

There is all kinds of talent on my team, but I’m racking my brain trying to figure out training,workshops, projects, etc that I can use to help them grow. Does anybody have any suggestions or examples from your own experience that might be helpful?

Thanks in advance!

First, congrats on the promotion.

A few things I’ve done:

You might want to think about having an offset day to got look at architecture and furniture, get their brains thinking differently.

Another idea would be to give a short seminar, once per week, on a different topic. Could be about a technique, could be about a particular designer, or analysis of a particular design.

Have an outside presenter come in to do a workshop on a particular skill you want to strengthen. Sketching, paper models…

Set up a regular group crib to review everyone’s work as a team. I do this every two weeks. Obviously we check in frequently on a project basis, but having a crib every two weeks as a team raises the level of expectation on everyone.

You mean like having continuing education classes for the design professional?

If only there was a professional society for ID. It, like all other other professional societies, would provide such service.

OK. Sorry for the snark on IDSA and offering nothing constructive. An easy cheap thing is to buy ID books, magazines or anything where your crew can page through and get ideas. Starting by stealing ideas is the easiest way to come up with your own.

Yes, congrats on the promotion!

I manage an exhibit design team, and similarly Industrial Design lends itself well to the profession. However, we have hired graphic designers with no 3D design experience that turn out to become excellent exhibit designers. First thing is, be patient, the learning curve is usually steeper, but once they get the hang of it I’ve found that they can do amazing work in applying their 2D skills to 3D environments.

We use Strata for 3D design illustration, which uses a lot of similar Adobe shortcuts and includes some Adobe plugins and native render to layer features which 2D designers identify with. It is a tool that graphic designers seem to be able to pick up pretty easily, so, that helps us. I’m not sure what 3D software you use or if your vendor offers training, but if they do it can be worth the investment, it may not be so much that they can’t think in 3D, they just can’t design in 3D, software training and guidance can help them.

Another thing to consider is to have them shadow or get some training from your structural designers, this could be a good way for them to get a better grasp on how things are engineered and constructed. This is also a great way to get them to understand what is possible.

Maybe there’s an opportunity for your designers to get some hands on time learning from your fabricators, or if not, train (force) them to make sketch models of their ideas and concepts. Then have them model those concepts in your software so they get a better understanding of how things translate back and forth between 2D and 3D.

Thanks everyone for the replies, snark and all (looking at you iab…),

I myself am a member of both IDSA and AIGA and have been on the lookout for local events and workshops that we can attend and I am also bringing in books, magazines, etc to help stir the pot of creativity. Given how new our department is, or rather, new as a department of its own, I am not yet in the position to be able to sell IDSA/AIGA memberships as a company expense, but that is my goal. It’s great that I am a paying member of the organizations, but I want ALL of us to be. But that battle will come later. In the meantime I am doing the best I can to share what I am getting out of my membership

I really like the suggestion to have a look at furniture and architecture - both are so rooted in 3D space and form that I can’t help but think that would be a great way to help them start thinking in those terms. I also agree that regular meetings / critiques as a group will also be beneficial as I firmly believe that nothing develops skills quite like collaboration and peer review.

Greenman - Its funny you bring up Strata as that is precisely what we use (though I’m definitely on the lookout for something better)

So good. We were all thinking it.

Responding to the second item though, I totally forgot that setting up a design library is one of the first things I did. I put together a small budget so I could buy books every month and subscribe to a bunch of magazines. It is kind of funny, but people still seem to like to leaf through things.

We also keep a lot of active image boards around topics and use secret Pinterest boards pretty actively which we print and discuss.