Ergonomics or Industrial Design


Another newbie here for some advice. My degree is in Human Physiology, with Ergonomics as the specialization. But the weirdest part is, though our specialization says ergonomics, we also had to study manufacturing process, and some other topics which are usually there in the industrial design curriculums. (As a matter of fact, one of our proffessors had once said that the specialization course is actually the entire Industrial Design course in the undergraduate level.)

Design had always been my passion, so I feel that I should go for Industrial Design as my career. (Besides, my degree, I’m decently knowledgable about computers, but mostly self-taught…besides the usual MS Office, Windows etc, I know basic photo and video editing, html and javascript. Though, I can kinda handle many free CAD software, I’m planning to go for an AutoCAD course with Autodesk certification.) Are my current qualifications enough to be an industrial designer?

Besides, ID, I also have interest in

  1. UI Design
  2. UX Design
  3. Automotive Design

Do you think I’m fit for one of these careers or do I need some other qualification?

Thanks and have a great day! :slight_smile:

It all depends on what your portfolio looks like.

Hello Yo! Thank you for your reply. :slight_smile:
I’ve mostly designed furniture (chairs, tables), safety equipment (like helmet), and medical equipment (like crutches) during the M.Sc course and I’m planning to use those in my portfolio. In my free time, I’ve designed some accessories for portable devices like laptop and phones. Personally, I love gadgets, that’s why I love designing those or accessories for them. But I’m not sure if I should be adding them in my portfolio.

As projects, I’ve completed two, one with manual material handing workers and another with banking employees, but neither project involved any design directly (I’ve designed interventions for them too, but haven’t had it published anywhere), so I’m not sure if I should be adding them to my resume or portfolio.

Any advice?

You may have just omitted it for brevity, but in your first post I didn’t read any mention of studio classes where you go through the process of designing something considering all factors, or a sketching class, or classes focused on aesthetics. You could disprove my opinion with a great portfolio, but it seems like you’d be very qualified to work with industrial designers to create products, but perhaps not as someone with the title of industrial designer. You might be very qualified for interface design, but that’s not my specialty. My guess would be that you’d need some sort of grad school to become an ID, but there very well may be positions available that are exactly what you want to do, even if they don’t have the title of Industrial Design. And hey, you might get paid more than an ID.

Also, if ID is truly your focus, skip AutoCAD. Go for Solidworks, Rhino, Alias, or even Creo (formerly ProE).

As for immediate advice, show us some of your work so we have a better idea of where you are, even if not formally in a portfolio.

Hello seurban! :slight_smile: Nope! We never had any formal sketching classes. So designing for us was usually like “grab a pencil and paper and draw” type. :frowning: Whatever CAD software I’ve tried till now are mostly freewares (like Google SketchUp) and learned them by using online tutorials or guides or experimenting myself. But to be honest, I’m still not very confident to use them formally :blush: And I’m still practicing… Still not confident to use them in the designs I’ve done so far. :blush: And that’s why I wanted to attend a formal CAD course or any course that actually focuses on design .
Yeah! We had a couple of classes on aesthetics.

Can you please be a little descriptive in this part.

I must sound so silly, but what is the difference between UI design and interface design? Besides, I don’t think I have any experience in interface design.

Sounds good! :slight_smile:
But another silly question! How does Solidworks, Rhino, Alias, or Creo differ from AutoCAD? :blush:

You mean scanned pages of my drawings?


first off, I really appreciate you enthusiasm and interest in the field of ID. Wanting to learn and develop is an important quality to have.

Now, here comes some tough love!
You might not realize this, but your questions are very fundamental. How to compile a portfolio or what the differences in CAD programs are is so basic that I would advice you to look these things up first, before you start thinking about getting hired as an Industrial Designer.
I second the suggestion for further education, maybe a Grad course would good but actually, also an ID undergrad might not be a bad choice as it gives you all the design basics and would certainly be able to turn you into a powerful multi disciplinary designer, given your background.

I’d also have to say your not the traditional ID, entry level job seeker. What kinds of jobs do your classmates typically end up in? Ergonomics and manufacturing says “optomize assembly line worker movements” to me.
But that doesn’t mean your not valuable to the right product development situation. Consider looking into consumer insights, or consumer research departments where they do UI work in addition to ID work, Human Factors experts are in most of them.

Hi bepster and no_spec! Thank you both for your replies! :slight_smile:

I’ll try to answer both of you at once. But to do so, I believe I’ll have to start right from the beginning, which unfortunately, is quite big. Please bear with me. Thanks in advance for your patience!

When I finished high school, I loved three topics - design (belonging to the domain of fine arts), gadgets (mostly belonging to engineering) and human physiology. At that time, it seemed like these three likings of my life are like three skew lines in space which never meet. So the only choice was, grab one and move on. I chose Human Physiology. My mistake, I know. I should have done a lot more research while choosing my UG subject.

After B.Sc, the obvious step was M.Sc. It was during this M.Sc course that I came across Ergonomics, which kinda fused Human Physiology to design, and also had an added aspect of engineering. Obviously, that caught my attention and I chose Ergonomics as the subject of specialization. (So, the three domains are not skew lines, but the X, Y and Z-axis which actually meet and form the origin and have infinite possibility.). Out of sheer luck, our curriculum included a lot of topics which belong to ID (like manufacturing process, as I had said before). And no_spec, you are right, the MMH project involved posture analysis and occurring of MSD.

The others in our batch, as well as our seniors, think that the subject of specialization is absolutely useless (as it it a hybrid of ID and human factors, and also because our degree is in Human Physiology) and go for either research (Ph.D) or join some institute as a teacher. I don’t have any liking for either field. After 5 whole years, I’ve finally found the perfect subject for me. And I refuse to give up this easily. I made a mistake 5 years back and I’m not going to repeat it. I want to know the options available to me now.

I don’t know what I’m doing is right or wrong (or downright suicide, as my friends state it), but I’m feeling very frustrated right now. My heart refuses to accept teaching or research (Ph.D and post-doc) as a career. And I don’t know what options are open to me now. I feel like hanging between two completely different worlds.

All you guys have a lot more experience than me. Please help! As far as my knowlege goes, I felt ID would be the perfect one followed by UI designer and UX designer. Please guide me!

I don’t mind going back to college again, but as I said there are a lot of stuff which, actually belong to ID, are taught in our Ergonomics class. I studied all those, and got the highest in our year. What’s the point of relearning stuff I already know? You guys are right (and I have been saying this) that the only aspect missing is the formal sketching part and transfering those drawing into a digital format. Is there any course which focusses on this part rather than the entire ID?

No_spec touched on this as well. If a company makes a lot of products that interface with humans, like helmets (which you’ve worked on) or a company like Logitech, or perhaps even a large enough design firm that does a lot of work in that realm, chances are they have human factors specialists working in their R&D department. Just as ID & engineering work together to create a physical object, they can also collaborate with other experts who will guide the creation of that physical object. And the same goes for digital as well, but again, that’s not my field.

Overall though, until you show us (and a potential employer) differently, my reaction is still close to Bepster’s. You say you took courses on aesthetics, but sketching is such a big part of creating and refining an aesthetic that I’m still left skeptical. And you really need to practice ID to get good at it, which is done through a number of studio projects under the guidance of an ID professor. Also an industrial designer has to take into account a user’s lifestyle and emotions (plus mfg, business, marketing, etc), not just aesthetics and their body. Maybe you have done all that, and hopefully your coursework has built your problem solving skills, but this is a field where you have to prove it (hence Yo’s portfolio comment). Maybe a listing of your courses might be a start, but the proof is really in your work.

It’s not that I don’t think your school was good, it’s just that a lot of stuff get’s covered in the 4 years of an ID BFA, and cramming it all, or even 50% of it, into part of a concentration doesn’t seem possible. I got a minor in Mechanical Engineering (took 7-8 classes or so), but when I graduated there’s no way I could get a job as an engineer. Even now, after I’ve learned more on the job for 6.5 years under an engineer and probably spend half my day doing the work of an engineer, I don’t think I could get a job with the title “Engineer.” Maybe “Mechanical Designer” if I really tried. ID might be a little more forgiving if you’ve done a lot of work on your own, but it sounds like you’re just beginning to dive into the core ID skills.

I encourage you to look at some of the threads in the projects section of the forum. Some students have done a really good job showing their process, which should give you a glimpse at what an ID project entails and what an ID grad would be expected to be capable of. Also look at the portfolio’s section to see what a portfolio looks like. Actually, look at all the sections as well as anything else you can find.

Since you’re still a student you can also get away with calling or emailing various companies, asking if they have any human factors specialists, then talking with them for a while or exchanging a few emails. Just be courteous and respectful and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of insight. We had to do this for our professional practice course and it was both helpful and easier than I thought.

If I understand you correctly, you might be thinking that the ergonomics specialization was somewhat equivalent to the minor :confused: But actually, it was 3 classes everyday (each of 1-1.5 hours) for 5days a week, for 6 months. Additionally, we had 3-5 hours practical training classes everyday (once again, 5 times a week, for 6 months). That equals, approx. 350- 500 hours of theory and 375-550 hours of practical. Plus, two projects.

Of course, we had to do that! Any design would be incomplete if we don’t take user’s lifestyle, environment and emotions into consideration. We also had to take up a few classes on marketing (and some classes on economics too, but that was unofficial and was done once our exams were over. We can provide evidence as it was a professor from overseas and will definitely provide sufficient evidence that we had attended her classes.) Designing is not everything. At the end of the day, we have to sell our products.

Well, the furniture [chairs, tables (not the one I’m planning to upload)], safety equipment (like helmet), and medical equipment (like crutches), I designed were during the M.Sc course and under the supervision of our professor. All other are done in my free time. Our professor knows about a few of those (and appreciates those) but not all.

All this time, I was worried that in front of experts like you, my work would look worthless. But well, now I’m trying to upload a table I designed, but, I repeat, I’m no expert and I have no formal training in any design software. I created it using Google Sketchup. But how do I upload it? I don’t see any option here.

Yeah! I’m going through all the sections of this forums. You guys have tons of good stuff here. Loads to learn.

Sounds excellent! I had a brief talk to one of our professors about it. He mentioned companies like HCL, Phillips, Godrej and a few others are worth a try. You’ve mentioned Logitech. So I’ll be off to contacting them. Do you or anyone else have any other suggestions?

You seem very focused on your academic record. However, it is not about the classes you have taken but about the things you have learned. I have not once been asked about my curriculum as my portfolio reflected strength and weaknesses.
ID is really a profession where you are not getting hired of a resume.

In terms of uploading some of your work, we are certainly looking forward to seeing your stuff.
Yo is right, this is a difficult discussion before anyone can get an idea about your skills.

I’d like to call for caution though.
Don’t feel pressured to post something just because everybody in this thread asks you to.
I am not sure how complex the material is that you are planing to upload but make sure it is not just a SketchUp rendering of a table.

Instead, as suggested, use the examples in the Project section here to put together a multi-slide presentation of your project.
If CAD is not yet your tool, no problem. Make mock-ups and models or try to build the real thing.
Show hand sketches, inspiration and development.
And make scale models alongside sketching. People are not doing that enough in my opinion but it helps tremendously with proportions, which is paramount in furniture.

The table project might do this but I would strongly suggest that you use your unique insights in Ergonomics in your presentation. Why are you the only person who could design this table? Why would I hire you as a designer over all the others?
Especially coming from left field, the USP is very important as you will have to make up ground you might be lacking in traditional ID with your added skill set.

To summarize, don’t upload a picture of a table. Save that time and instead post a complete project, from beginning to end and show your process, influenced by your special skills.

Best of luck!

Thanks for your reply. But to be honest I wasn’t actually pressured. I’ve seen other projects here that are done in an excellent manner. My biggest weakness is that I’m not that expert in sketching, as I’m repeatedly saying. So my fear is that, I might be not upto the mark. You are right, instead of having boxing matches with all the CAD software, I’m trying to learn some sketching. so that my design can actually make some sense when seen by someone. Once I’m confident enough, I’ll post the complete project, from start to end, and of course, the reason for the redesign is our dear old Ergonomics!

Thank you everyone for your feedback. I’ll be back soon. :slight_smile: