Engineering to Industrial Design


I’m new to this blog so I apologize if I’m posting this in the wrong place. I’m an undergrad Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering student with a life long interest in design. I’ve enrolled in engineering “by default” as I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do at the time, but now I know that I do not want to follow this as a career.

I’ve always loved art and design, whether it be graphic design, industrial design, interior design, some form of art,etc. These things have always captured my interest. I’ve recently considered the possibility of doing this as a career, this is something I have a passion for, and some natural talent as well (I have a decent hand for drawing/sketching/designing).

My questions to you are the following:

Considering that I plan to follow a degree in Industrial Design after I finish my Aerospace degree, what can I realistically expect from a career in industrial design (daily work, hours, salary, lifestyle)?

Since I still have about 2 years before I finish my current degree, I still have time to prepare. What advice do you have for someone like me at this point (improving drawing skills, preparing a portfolio,etc)?

Your help and feedback would greatly appreciated.

There are a few other similar posts you should search for and read through but I’d throw out the following:

A bachelors in ID will prepare you better than a masters will (more time in a studio spent designing makes for better designers), and the Aerospace degree will have less of a value to an employer - plus college is expensive (you may spend anywhere from $20-100k for another 2 years of school in a career you don’t want) so why not consider transferring now if Aero/ME isn’t what you want to be doing? ID jobs will not pay as well as most aero engineering jobs (assuming you can get one) so consider saving that money if you don’t plan on putting it to good use. No one wants to graduate with $200k in debt.

As far as expectations of a designer? It all depends. Generally speaking expect to put in a lot of hours, especially when “Crunch” time happens and you need to get out a deliverable. This also depends on if you are in the corporate world or consulting world. Consultants usually will put in a lot more hours since they are at the whim and schedule of whoever is paying them. It’s not a bad lifestyle if you prepare yourself for it. Most of your college education will be about spending every night in the studio till 3am, so if you learn to enjoy that kind of after hours culture you’ll enjoy it. If you expect yourself to get burnt out not going home every day at 5PM it may not be for you.

As far as what to do with prepare, it never hurts to try to learn 3D software, sketching, etc but those are all tools. The real value of design education is about learning to understand and identify problems, create solutions and test those solutions to continually improve them.

Designers with engineering skills are always valuable, and there are “Design engineers” who are focused on wearing both hats, so you should consider where and what you really want to work on. You’ll also need to weigh whether or not having 2 degrees gives you an advantage, or a disadvantage.

Those tools also help creating the so called “design thinking” . The more you practice, the better is to easily identify the problems, understand whats wrong and fix it, whether they are style or technical problems. If Aero2design comes from ME/Aeronautics, I guess he knows something about 3D modelling, maybe CATIA V5 or Pro E. I’m now sure what people in the US learn, but here in Europe is all about CATIA when it comes to aeronautics. I hope he had some experience with solid modelling, assemblies, basic surfacing and, hopefully, some introduction to class B / A surfacing. Where I studied we even had some basic courses about ergonomics and composites (most of my university colleagues ended up working as ME for aeronautics or automotive companies)