Finally Found Industrial Design- What Do I Do Next?

Hey everyone. Okay, so this is my very first post on this site and I have to say I’m pretty excited. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the process of innovation: the way in which people conceptualize products, how they go about doing it, and eventually successfully bringing it to market in an environmentally sustainable, economically profitable way. These are the people who create the future and I find that so exciting.

However, I’m in a bit of a conundrum. Here’s my situation: I’m currently a Schreyer Honors student majoring in English, and retaining my status as a Schreyer student is contingent upon my remaining an English major. However, like most ambitious and curious students my age, deciding upon a major and sticking to that major is somewhat challenging.

And yet, remaining apart of the Schreyer Honors community is something extremely important to me. I’ve worked hard to get here and I don’t want to jeopardize that. I’ve consulted with a few of my advisers from Penn State and they have pointed my in your direction. So, I was wondering if minoring in say, Product Realization is actually even possible for someone outside the realm of engineering. Although I’m a Liberal Arts person at heart, I’ve always been fascinated about the process of innovation. I really could go on and on about industrial design, but instead I’ll ask another question. Would this minor be enough of a foundation if I wanted to pursue Industrial Design for Graduate School? Any and all feedback is soo appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Start at the beginning. If you’re committed, start at the beginning. Get yourself into a solid Design school, and get your Bachelors. Getting your Masters won’t give you the proper foundation to be successful. Best of luck.

I see, I see. I appreciate the advice my good man… I don’t know if this holds any truth to it, but I’ve heard some master’s programs offer three year degrees and use the first year as an intense crash course in ID. Your thoughts?

Don’t look for the easy way out of it…

Damn haha your right. I’ve got some thinking to do.

There are no good shortcuts and there’s nothing wrong with having two bachelor’s degrees.

It seems to me like you’d be a good fit for pursuing a masters in design research and strategy.

Thanks for the advice, GEBS. I’ll most definitely spend some time looking into to this option as well.

It’s not that weird of a situation. My girlfriend did her first undergrad in English and learned about ID towards the end, and ended up enrolling in it as a second degree. She’s at a co-op with GE right now, and will come back to finish her senior year, but she made the transition quite well. I think that even though it’s less tangible than the benefits of coming from art or engineering disciplines, knowing how to write and communicate are actually really helpful and will potentially set you apart in subtle, but very real ways. I’ve been told that with some of the new, really interdisciplinary design programs like Carnegie Mellon, English and some of the other more liberal liberal-arts are promoted more than they usually are for, for that reason.

Don’t do the masters. An undergrad is about building skills - the so called “10,000 hours to be an expert”. An advanced degree is more about application of those skills, and even though some provide the condensed foundation track, it’s probably not going to get you where you really need to be, and you will probably feel like you’re constantly struggling to keep up. At least that’s how I usually feel.

I’d agree that a bachelors is the appropriate route to go. Most people hiring masters students expect more, but typically they deliver less because their skills are specialized and their pure design skills aren’t as good as a bachelors student.

I’d also say that even though being in honors society is important to you, in the design world we care very little about honors society, and even grades to a large extent. I’ll gloss over a resume in about 15 seconds to look for names, internships and a school but that “GPA 4.0” doesn’t mean much to me. As soon as I flip through the first few pages of your portfolio I’ll either be overwhelmed by great design work, or I’ll see that GPA didn’t coordinate to great design skills, your teacher just happened to like you.

As a small anecdote, I spoke with one of my professors after graduation and called him out on how he gave me B-'s and another student (no longer in the design field) A’s. He simply pointed out that given my potential, I was only working below a B level, and that the other student wouldn’t have designed their way out of a wet paper bag no matter how much harder they worked. That kind of re-affirmed my stance that your work speaks much louder than your transcript ever will.

Ahh Carnegie Mellon was actually a school I was particularly interested in for exactly that reason! I think there’s definitely a growing niche in the market for people coming from the liberal arts realm, or at least I hope so. I really don’t want to limit myself, though. There’s absolutely something to be said about truly understanding the actual process an industrial designer goes through when crafting their product; it’s easy to talk the talk, however, the walk is much more difficult to master. And I think the same can be said when, say, a UI or UX guy comes into a project and expects their teams’ programmers to make magic happen over night. You need to have a certain kind of respect for each area of expertise. Anyways, thanks again for the advice. This has been helpful, to say the least.

I’m a little late to the party here, but I’m wondering:

Are you interested in becoming a designer, or in studying design? Not necessarily the same thing, and not the same level of design skill is required for both.

That’s the thing, I guess I’m not entirely sure what “studying design” for a living actually entails. Are they more or less employed by universities or, rather, corporations like Microsoft, Nokia, Apple, where they would do they’re work in an R&D department? At the moment, I have to say practicing design is what I have in mind, but I’m completely open to any and all suggestions.

Pretty much all design schools are aimed at preparing you for design practice. Some do a better job than others, but that’s usually what they at least try to do.

The reason I was wondering is that I sometimes run into students that are more interested in thinking about and analysing products, their effects, their background - the cultural aspects of design - than in creating them. Now, the first isn’t really possible if you don’t have at least some skill in the latter, but if your interests are more academic than practical, enrolling in a school with very little room for those sorts of studies, where the focus is 100% on creating products and the rest only as instrumental to that could be frustrating, I’d imagine.

Might be something to keep in the back of your mind when browsing syllabi.

Nobody has mentioned that there are 3-year master programs in ID. Quite frankly, they should offer these instead of a 4-year undergrad because it removes the liberal arts prereqs. Yes, I see the irony.

Anyhow, the first year of these programs are designed to give you the foundation classes and the other 2 years are ID. It gives you the equivalent of an undergrad degree in 3 years. It also gives you the freedom where you can push yourself into areas beyond the typical undergrad degree. Older students typically have more discipline and they can excel beyond an undergrad program if they choose. Not all do.