From Marketing to Design | First Steps?

Morning All,

I’m a Marketing BA graduate from a small private school here in Minneapolis, and have recently become interested in design thinking and sustainable design strategies. They never tell you in high school what your real passions will be at 25, but none the less here I am. In my opinion, and correct me if I’m wrong, design thinkers will be at the helm of future positive change related to consumption and production, and want to do my part to have a positive impact. I’ m hoping to begin a path towards sustainable product design and design thinking style roles for this to be accomplished, but need to figure out the correct first steps.

I was hoping to gather recommendations of schools to consider, roles to look at with a Marketing BA, and opportunities for immersion into the design world, now.

Any and all information is of help, and appreciate the feedback.


welcome to Core77
it’s a big topic and has come up here before in the past, perhaps someone will post links to those threads.
its fairly easy to look at design schools, (it doesn’t sound like you want to become a designer though) harder to find good strategic thinking and sustainability schools. would you consider an MBA or studying abroad?

Some companies, typically medium to large, can have their own marketing group within the new product development group. Meaning, they are separate from the traditional marketing groups that focus on downstream activities like sales, advertising, support materials, etc.

Theses NPD groups have typically a technical side and a marketing side. The technical side is charged with solving the problem. The marketing side is charged with determining the problem and taking the solutions from the technical side into the field for evaluation. Some call it upstream marketing.

So unless you specifically want to design, there is no reason you can’t be a part of a team that undertakes sustainable design and design thinking. Also, your large “design” consultancies will certainly hire non-designers. If you specifically wanting to design, there are plenty of threads to read that ask how to transition to design from another career.

We are even looking for a marketing type for our NPD group. You will also need a nursing background, preferably an intensive care unit. But it is amazing how few people are actually suited for the design process. We have been trying to fill that role for quite some time. And yes moderators, we posted in coroflot. I’m not fishing here.

The types of positions that iab is talking about are notoriously difficult to hire for. People don’t typically go to school for this type of job or even know about it. At Nike, and where I work now, we call them PLMs (Product Line Management, or Product Line Marketing). Here the job typically entails coordination with design, engineering, sales, and project management, being able to assist in market sizing, quant research, pricing optimization, write product marketing materials, review and approve packaging and web literature relevant to the product, assisting with ethno research, collaborating on product definition… we just hired one after looking for almost a year.

…like yo said, I’ve found they are hard to hire for… almost requires a designer’s disposition and tolerance for ambiguity, and a marketing/business mind with an ability to lay their bits on the line in defense of an idea or product. “Determining the problem” is nearly impossible for marketing people and MBA types, because if it isn’t arrived at through deduction they can’t assign a value to it. I’ve even considered it as a transition for myself, seeing how some companies desperately need this role.

I’ve heard them called Product Managers and they are charged with overall ownership of a product. I’ve only had a handful of very good experiences - most of the time they are too ‘marketing’ or too ‘project management’ to be effective in the way NPD or R&D should be.

However - the second someone in these roles speaks too loudly about the aesthetic or other design-centered aspects of the work, they will get shouted down. The good ones also know not to cross that line, at least publicly.

I appreciate this collective of responses so far, and will include it in my research. Taking this information into consideration is important as you all seem to be involved or informed on the subject.

In relation to Product Management, this is a role currently being hired for at my current company, Proto Labs. The position calls for an Engineering degree with at least 5 years of marketing experience, or a BA in Marketing with at least 5 years of engineering experience; a very difficult combination to find in my opinion. We’ve got a handful of engineers who are phenomenal in their skill-set but have no marketing experience. On the contrary, we’ve got a handful of great marketers with little technical aptitude. It’s difficult for a marketing person to get immersed in the technical world with no experience or degrees, same as it is with engineers in regards to marketing. Sounds like a very difficult path but there seems to be a higher degree of demand compared to low supply. As I look to gain more design and technical competencies, I know the marketing fulfillment requirements are met in my inventory. Supplementing that with a Sustainable Design MA or something of the sorts could me at attaining a role in product marketing or something of the sorts.

I am meeting with and considering the Sustainable Design MA at Minneapolis College of Arts and Designs; is anyone familiar about this program and/or have an opinion about it or MCAD itself? The program can be found at

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


I’m currently a undergrad studying Marketing and I realized I wanted to get into industrial design late last year.I took a basic design course this fall, but I wasn’t able to fit a class this spring. My ID adviser that I talked to recommended me to take classes so I could develop a portfolio and then apply into graduate school . However, I think yo mentioned, in another thread , that 3 years of grad school isn’t enough to prepare you for the design world. Should I just finish b-school and then apply to an undergrad ID program or try to get into a graduate program?

I’ve also given Product Management a thought, but all the internships I’ve searched for require engineering/computer science backgrounds.