Does the school matter? and other misc. ramblings

I’d like to thank you in advance for any assistance and advice you can provide. I’m pretty verbose, but since everyone on the web has A.D.D. these days, I’ll provide cliff notes and then launch into a more detailed description.

Cliff Notes:

Mechanical Engineer would like to become Industrial Designer
Originally from southwestern US
Has worked in auto industry near Detroit for last 5 years
Majority of family are still in sw (Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico)

earn bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design
(BA or BS, depending on programs)
earn masters of design
skip expense of school, intern for a design firm and begin career the old-fashioned, hard working way
realize that ship sailed and give up

Full Version:

So that pretty much covers the basics. If you’re still intrigued (or feeling sorry for me), thanks. Let’s take a deep breath and plow through the story.

Like others seeking advice in the “students n’ schools” section, I’m trying to figure out the best educational path for my situation. I have done some research on my own, but unfortunately, all of my contacts have pretty steep biases, and I am having difficulties filtering for objective advice.

As such, I turn to you, Internet Dwellers!

I’m assuming you read the cliff notes, so you’ll know that I am looking to leave the world of engineering for the world of design (something which was always in the back of my head, but circumstances didn’t allow it). As an engineer I have worked for the last 5 years in the auto industry near Detroit. I’m originally from the southwest, and while Detroit has some positive attributes, it isn’t my favorite place. One of the positive traits, though, happens to be that I have been accepted at College for Creative Studies, and in fact have taken a couple of classes there. I was working full time, though, and couldn’t hack not sleeping like I did for my first degree. After taking a few semesters off, I have a few options in front of me: return to CCS, attend another school in a geographic region I like more, or give up (I’m not so fond of this last one, but it has its moments).

If I decide I want to return to school, which degree do I pursue? I already have a bachelor’s degree (BS Mech. Engineering), so the normal path is to move UP the educational ladder to a master’s degree. But it seems master’s in design limits one’s career greatly.

If I go for a BA (or even a BS, available at a few schools), will I be able to earn enough to pay back my loans? How greatly does the school matter- unlike other fields, I would think that the results (portfolio) speak for themselves, but is that true? Experience has taught me that corporate America doesn’t follow logic, so I’m uncertain here.

Also, it stands to reason that a better school will have better designers for me to compete with and learn from. So if I attend a school with a lesser reputation, even if I am the best from that school, will the quality of my work be so far behind kids from other schools?

How realistic is teaching myself? I could intern with a local design company, learn the ropes, and proceed from there. Again, portfolios matter, right? So as long as I can prove myself. But what will it take? What is the downfall to being cheap and trying to save $70,000 in tuition expenses, that would be awesome. But is this method effective?

The greedy side of me wants to know what salary range most designers land at, and their longterm potential? Will my engineering background make a difference financially, or just in the way I learn and approach designs? By the way, the second-leading education candidate I’m considering showed me their “success” rate which had 95% of their graduates placed in a “related field,” (whatever that entails) earning $29000 per year. Because I want to design, I don’t mind sacrificing. If I have to eat macaroni and cheese to get through school, fine. But I’m not so sure I could do it for the rest of my life!!!

Lastly, would a design management degree be beneficial? I know of one at the University of Toronto in Canada that sounded promising. Eventually (though this may be getting ahead of myself a little) I would love to open my own design consulting firm. So maybe get a jump on things and rather than be a full-fledged designer myself, I can guide others to do my every whim…

So… thank you again for taking the time to read this. Your input is greatly appreciated, be it advice, criticism or even song lyrics that pop into your head.

that was touching, and thanks for the cliff notes

i’m a nobody in this industry but can i atleast tell you

who ever said you only get one chance? do what it is you really want to do! and so what if you have another 100,000 dollars to pay back. if you were really in it for the money than you wouldnt want to be a designer in the first place. i place happiness and self-worth on a platter much higher than money. more specifically, i would say go back to school, but dont leave out everything that doesnt give you an actual degree. most schools have a night program or a one year thing that is for people who have more experience than an 18 year old with an idea in their head.

do what you love, and as long as you can afford to live then money shouldnt be an issue.

I hope csven replies to this because this is I think what he did. Got undergrad in engineering and worked as an ME and then went beck to Cleveleand Institute of Art and got a BFA in ID, now owns his own ID consulting gig in Connecticut and is doing well last we spoke.

Don’t give up, find a way.

CCS is a great school. I’m not sure what classes you took, and how your vis com skills are, but if they are decent, I would say that, coupled with your ME experience might make you a great candidate for a Masters, either a MFA or a MID program. I know, after years of bashing masters in design, I recommend it, but this might be a c=good case, again, depending on your current skills…

Thanks, yo. I keep hearing that CCS is a great school; should I choose to continue in the Bachelor’s direction, my other main option is Art Institute of Colorado (for personal reasons). Any thoughts between the two? Another question, since you seem to have some knowledge: how limiting is an MID degree? I hear that it really guides one into a design theory direction, but what does one do with regard to design theory? Why do you think an MFA or MID might be suitable in my case? I fully expect I will need to take a year or so (required at many institutions for non-art majors, anyway) to brush up my skills before I begin a masters program.

Thanks for the pep talk, ardnaxela. I’m going to need the encouragement.

Some design firms actually look for mechanical engineers (Design Continuum, for example.). You might want to look into that…it may be a good way to get your foot in the door…

you didn’t mention what you’d like to design after the transition. What are your goals? if you want to: consultancy/corporate/freelance the advice can be more specific - if you want to stay in the auto industry, CCS all the way.

You can’t really compare CCS to a school like U of Colorado.

I suggested the possibility of a masters because you have an ME (so I assume you understand how stuff gets made) and if you took a few semesters at CCS, maybe you can draw? If so you are missing the design theory component… plus you can get financial aid for a masters but not for a second bachelors I believe. But if it where me, and I could work out the money, I would get an undergrad at ccs, probably the best rout. but thats if it was for me. I can’t tell you what is best for you.

no_spec is correct, what type of design would you like to do? It might guide the discussion?

I did ~5 years at 400+ consultancy and would attend university student job nights for my employer. #1 question “is my degree from X worth more or better than degree from Y?” Our standard answer “The fact you finished your degree is most important, the school is irrelevant.”

The auto industry is not indicative of other spheres in product development. Generally, the automotive world is much more abusive and acrimonious due to the “cost is the enemy” attitude.

I know of no instance where a masters degree limits your career. I know of lots of people with master’s degrees, design and engineering, who have prospered, and quickly.

Teaching yourself in todays world of specialized, accredited professions, is not recommended.

An industrial designer with an engineering degree, while a bit of an anacronism, should be highly sought after. The common attitude that ID and engineering don’t mix is perpetrated by people who lack experience, don’t really know what they’re talking about and are scared. I have worked with several people like you, all started as engineers, but they had a personal creativity drive originally expressed in artistic output, that led to them returning for ID education. Both were freaking awesome designers and engineers, excelling and happy in both roles.

To answer a common question, I have no overriding calling. I would like to be involved with product design… probably as a consultant, so I can touch upon a wide variety of products and companies. Eventually, I can see opening my own firm. That being said, I have no aversion to working for one company; the reason I became an engineer and was highly interested in design in the first place is due to my love of cars. I realize now, though, that I would be just as happy designing toasters and other items more commonly viewed as “appliances.” I would love to instill a modicum of design in the average home, making people say “I never knew a toaster could be a work of art.”

Additionally, I have interest in graphic design, photography, architecture, fashion and interior design. While I can see touching upon those areas in my designs, I don’t feel as at home with the idea of working full-time in any of those fields as I do with industrial design (especially since it won’t lock out applying aspects of my original degree).

with all of those interest I think you would be more at home in an art school rather than a uni, maybe the undergrad would be best so you can get more exposure to the arts in general? dunno, not sure…

Based on what you’ve revealed so far, I’d say a place like CCS, Art Center, or CIA is perfect for you.

You already have a wealth of mechanical expertise, and if “art schools” have a knock against them, it’s that they produce designers without a balance of real world manufacturability and production know-how…

Also, if cost is an issue, you could look into going to a state school (i.e. University of Cincinnati) and establish residency a year beforehand to get in-state tuition. It would save you a bundle. You could live and work in the area, even take a few classes if you wanted…

Nate makes a good point about residency. Not to mention the advantages of having costs offset by the paid co-ops at UC.

I was from CCS and a classmate of mine was a full time engineer at Ford. He made good money, but he was more creative than what’s needed for his job. Since he can’t just quit(he has a family to feed), he got many liberal class waived and try to sign up for classes that were held at night. I don’t know how long it took him to finish the whole thing, but I bet he never for a moment regret it.

If you are still holding to your current job, don’t be too anxious to quit it. See how many classes can be waived, then consider going to CCS as a part-time student(actually saves you money this way). Most of the classes have an option for night schedule because most of the teachers work at their full-time job in the day anyways.

I say go for a BFA degree.

CCS is starting a MA degree, but it’s new, so I can’t comment on it.

[quote=“Deez”]Read through this… :


thanks for the links. I had searched the archives (STFA, as it is known on another forum I read). I’m sure I missed some threads, so that will help round out my knowledge. I would also like to think I’m special enough to have my own thread, but that’s probably just my ego talking. Hopefully I’ve garnered enough unique responses that others feel this thread is worthwhile.

Anyway, I’m off to continue my due diligence cough

Waiting for you to catch up. You are one star short.

posting your work is a good way to rack up posts… just sayin.