Engineers that are Industrial Designers...

Lately I’ve been noticing that many jobs are requiring the industrial designers be engineers. I went on an interview a few weeks ago where they were looking for the same exact thing. The department I was applying for already had an entire team of engineers. It’s incredibly frustrating. Has anybody else come across this? What have you done to convince them otherwise?

I think there has always been this kind of pull in certain organizations. I’ve consulted for some engineering centric companies… and certainly a look at the founders of our field post WWII reveals a split between those that were more conceptual and artistic, those that leaned more toward engineering, and those that leaned more toward business. I think when design can explain its value outside of just making pretty things manufacturable and ergonomics, we start to win a bit more. It is a tricky thing to educate in an interview though, and I think it would require the utmost tact and the ability to read the people you are speaking with very well… but I always felt that there is no sense hiding or altering who I am in an interview, they are just going to find out week 1 on the job anyway. Explain what design is for you, if that isn’t something they align with, or at least think they can get behind in time, it won’t be a good fit anyway.

I think more and more industrial designers have to have the technical background/working knowledge to succeed. Almost all projects I do have an element of engineering where I need to be able to decipher feasability and anticiapte manufacturing and assembly processes in my ideation. How does doing this save a part or make it more reliable or easier to assemble and service or disassemble to recycle, etc. The fact that it’s going to look good aesthetically is a given but it also has to satisfy a bevy of other requirements for it to be a truly well considered design solution.

A lot of this knowledge simply comes from working on many projects and before you know it you are speaking engineering lingo and know the ins and outs of tooling, etc.

It is hard to earn trust and legitimacy from clients and their team when you don’t know how your own design proposals are going to be made or can’t explain some of the technical aspects as they surely will come up in the discussion at the time you present your concepts. You have to be prepared to support or defend these design decisions on the spot.

With CAD tools and rapid prototyping gaining hold as part of the ID process, you almost have to engineer your designs to a degree to be able to CAD and make the prototypes work. Ofcourse things like tolerances and stress or deflection calculations are still the realm of hardcore MEs but to have knowledge or a clue into engineering makes you all the more valuable and respected.

That is definitely true. I never considered myself a manufacturing geek, but I guess I am… if your a senior designer, you really need to know how things come out of molds, are assembled, how basic mechanisms work, and so on, even if just on a level where you can intelligently converse with engineering, and push them to do things out of their standard operating procedures.

It would make sense that the easier software tools become to create the output of a designer, the more apparent designers there will be, and the differentiation and validation will come by testing in other areas. As well, the general increasing superficiality and virtualization of modern experience, requires asking about a deeper understanding if you are in the business of making things.

I just went to a big sports trade show, and the amount of “designers” walking the show with 2D illustrator portfolios, required my introduction to be talking about the additional manufacturing and industrialization skill set in order to differentiate and get past the barriers. This feels different than previously.

I think this is so because IDers cost less per hour than BSMEs. IDers are pushed to do the design engineering and get the designs 80% there in 3D apps like Solidworks or ProE and the ME’s take over the more critical aspects or supervise the IDer in their completion. Less cost for companies.

Yeah, employers are very hung up on IDers coming in with excellent SW or ProE skills. I’ve been close in gaining interviews but they always want clarification if I am proficient at SW or ProE .

IDguy, you nailed it on the head, as far as junior positions are concerned.
This is the other side to the disappearance of the draftsman.
Some of those guys offering junior positions just realised they need some
guy who can “draw” in 3D, and design majors tend to be much faster in
“pumping CAD” than young engineering guys.
That aside it holds also true what Yo and Nxact pointed out. It is just ex-
pected, that even before “senior” level you learned about the boundaries
and possibilities of manufacturing processes. What helps us there is our
curious mentality. Designers always ask, how could we do it? Senior
engineers tend to say. " Zorry, we can’t do zat, due to xy, didn’t you know?"…


Yep, like Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” or something like that.
Engineers are taught to measure and put limits on everything, which is important too. I think engineers are becoming more like designers in their approach and thinking.