From designer to industrial designer

I’m currently a product / package designer that would like to transition into a industrial designer. I graduated in illustration so I’m a little light on all the engineering type of stuff. I want to take beginner drafting classes and I currently can work in Rhino.

I have been a product designer for two years now and I’m wondering what else it takes for me to learn, inorder to become a industrial designer?

Will Rhino be a good program to work in or do I need a CAD program (Pro E or CAD Tools) under my belt?

Will drafting classes at two year community college help?
Basically what info do I need inorder to gain that industrial designer title and pay?

I’m a little confused since you say you are a product designer already. Industrial Design and Product Design is pretty much the same thing, I’m assuming you are doing mostly Packaging Design then?

I made a jump from Art Director to Industrial Designer about five years ago, so here’s my advice anyway:

Learn either Pro/E or Solidworks. Rino is OK, but the advantage that the other programs have besides being about a million times more robust is that they are widely used in the industry. Plus, it will help you get a foot in the door. You may wind up doing some “CAD jockey” work as your first form of employment, which is perfectly OK, since you can learn a lot of valuble stuff from temporary CAD jobs.

Second, educate yourself. Read about the profession. Read about sketching techniques. Read about manufacturing teqniques. All the info you need is out there if you look hard enough.

Third, design like crazy. Its like learning an instrument. The more you put in, the more you get out. Try to stockpile as much ID work as you can because you will need it for the fourth item on the list which is…

PORTFOLIO!!! This is your gold key into the design field. A great book will get you places faster than anything. This is a creative field. Only so much can be taught. The rest is talent. Try to make a well rounded book with sketches, renders and hopefully even models and prototypes. Cover different fields like electronics, toys, furniture, houswares etc. etc.

You could also enroll in a design school, but this might be difficult if you are already in the workforce and have bills to pay. Plus, piling up a mound of debt in exchange for a degree can be hazardous. There are plenty of ID graduates that are unemployed. My personal feeling is that while it may be harder finding work without an ID degree initially, it isn’t impossible. Plus, once you are in, you can blaze your own path to glory.

This is a long winding career, so be patient and just try to inch forward every day. The first job you get most likely won’t be your last, so keep an open mind and keep your eye on the prize.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

sigh… :open_mouth:

Industrial designers design: PRODUCTS!

I’m not clear from your post what are you trying to get into, perhaps go the IDSA website and visit “About ID”…

Now the “info you need to gain an industrial designer title” well, pretty much the same as any other profession,by experience (keep doing what industrial designers do, with 2 years experience as a product designer eventually you’ll find your way) or for a good & clear start go to college, I guess this would be more common.

About the software, at the studio we use rhino to generate models after sketching, and move to pro/e or solidW when ready and approved for development.
IMHO any CAD package is only a tool, as good as a pencil it all depends on hard work and talent behind it.

Good luck!

Thank you so much for the input. Alot of what you touched on was things I had thought about but hearing them from a experienced professional just makes me feel that much more confident in putting in the hours. This will help me get motivated to turn all my 2d mechanicals into 3d for my portfolio. I’m thinking that having the nice rendering in combination with the 2d mechanicals will give my port an extra punch.

to give you a little more info about the product designer thing:
I’m like 50% product designer and 50% package designer. I am a product designer for a Consumer products co. / Toy co. (mostly toy co.) right now but it is kind of a scrappy product design position. I do alot of id and go through the process, but it is not a glamorous product design position. I mostly hand draw (sketch and render in Illustrator) the ID/mechanicals and pass it to China in the tightest of deadlines. I do Rhino on the side but my job won’t buy me a 3d program to work with so I make it happen in 2d. This 2d process also makes all my mechanicals for the products look not as impressive as 3d mechanicals. This process kinda makes me feel like a product id hack. My postion is labled as a graphic designer even though I do alot of product id. All these things make me feel less lagit as a product designer/industrial designer. I would like to take steps to get more lagit.

“at the studio we use rhino to generate models after sketching, and move to pro/e or solidW when ready and approved for development.”

Base on the above statement:
Do product designers/industrial desigers work in both Rhino and SolidW? or do product designers pass the engineers their rhino drawings to make the solidw drawings? I’m unclear of the process.

What industry do you work in?


it sounds like you are an industrial designer, in a very specific field. I wouldn’t get too caught up in the technical skills of industrial design. We don’t all use CAD, and Industrial Design existed long before CAD was invented (shocking, I know!!) And knowing rhino, or pro-e or solidworks, or alias, or anything else does not a designer make.

Industrial Designers, simply, help make objects, manufactured through an industrial process, more appealing to consumers in order to make the companies that produce these objects, more money. That is the What. How do we do that? Well, that is the fun part. In your position, you’ve experienced one way: tight turn-around-over-the wall. There are many, many others. Whatever processes, tools, methods used to get there depends on the product, company, market, the designer, timeline, budget, etc. etc…

Base on the above statement:
Do product designers/industrial desigers work in both Rhino and SolidW? or do product designers pass the engineers their rhino drawings to make the solidw drawings? I’m unclear of the process.

yes and yes, but really, it depends.

The funny part bpovich is that your job doesn’t sound much different than mine, except I convinced the company to buy me Pro/E so I could create renders, detail drawings and even 3D models for China to use.

I’ve actually found that in dealing with China, the simpler the better. I’ve sent over full size prints and gotten better results than sending detail drawings! Recently though our factory has the ability to accept 3D files for plastic parts as reference, which saves a lot of headaches.

Since you already have experience sending ideas to China and receiving finished products (I assume), well, you ARE an Industrial Designer.

Perhaps the next step is to learn some more CAD just to add to your arsenal. I’ve noticed sometimes that people will dismiss CAD on these boards, and while there is plenty of power in a pencil, you would be suprised at how you can use a program like Pro/E as a DESIGN tool, not just an engineering tool. It never hurts to cultivate more skills.

That makes sense. I’m a lagit product designer / industrial designer. I just need to get more versed in other techniques and become a more kick ass product / industrial designer.


do you think it was a good thing getting Pro E? I know you touched on it a little bit there, but did it make your life easier in getting internal approvals? Did it make your life easier in dealing with China, specifically the back and fourth confusion? What industry are you in?

I ask this question because I would like to try and sell my company on some software purchases but I need to get a real good pitch and a real good idea of how it could work with my day to day jobs. I’d like to think it would speed up our process (we lose alot of days by things getting lost in translation) and give us more control of the final out come but I could use some one re afirming my thoughts. :bulb:

I know that you’ve gone back and forth here before about CAD. I don’t want to dismiss it, I just heard the question: " what software do I need to learn to be an ID’er." Don’t get me wrong, I love CAD, I wish I had the time to do more. It’s a tool , and you are right, the more tools you know, the better.

But I think you will agree, you need more than the tools to practice ID, that’s all I intended to say. :wink:


And, bpovich: I think it would be beneficial for you to be on the same package as your Chinese suppliers. You may not save money by building the model yourself, but you could pitch the angle that you can have more control over the final result with less chance for “translation issues.” You could argue there should be time and money saved with fewer back and forth iterations due to these translation issues. IF you nail the 3D on your end right off the bat, the suppliers’ job is easier, faster and time is money, yes? A better product, faster!

Last, if they spring for the CAD package, make sure you include some training. It is a bargain for the time you will save getting going.

I agree. Also just because you are a package designer does not mean you are not an industrial designer. I design packaging and it says Industrial Designer on my buisness card. ID isn’t about what you are designing but more about the process you go through to do it. as long as you are doing creative problem solving using Industrial design methods you are practicing ID.

Are you asking how you change to be a consumer product designer? This is a completely different discussion.

What I like about Pro/E is that it is parametric. You can build a model and make changes to the model easily without it failing. I do a lot of furniture and lighting. So often times I might design a chair, print a full size drawing or even shaded drawing, and discover that my size is a little off, or I don’t quite like the proportion of something. I can go back to my model, change a few numbers and hit regenerate. The model will keep all the other information and the changes will occur instantly. If I design a coffeee table and I want matching end tables I can change the dimensions of the legs and tops and PRESTO. Instant matching end table.

Thats just the beginning however. When you get into some advanced surfacing it gets mindblowing how powerfull this software is. Its like possesing the hands of God. I shit you not. Now take into consideration that you can email a file to a rapid prototyper and come away with an EXACT physical model in about a day…Hellz yeah. :sunglasses:

My bosses didn’t like buying it. Didn’t like paying maintenance on it. But once the learned the value of it. $ching!

One last thing…Photoreal renders go a long way. They help you pre sell a concept to a customer without having to spend dime one. That is a huge advantage. Its cliche, but a picture tells a thousand words.


I would just like to be as well rounded and marketable as possible, whether that is in consumer products, toys, etc… I like consumer products and would like to keep that going in the future.


That break down helps alot. Thanks much for all the kick ass info. This will help in my sell.