I just moved to New York from Louisiana a little less than 5 months ago. I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Louisiana and a year and a half of intern/work experience at an oil-related engineering company that specialized in tools for oilrig abandonment (the people that go after drilling is done and return the environment to the way it was).
Now, why did I move to New York and why am I pursuing product design? Simple: product design is what I’ve always wanted to do, there just aren’t any companies that really handle that in the South. Furthermore, I prefer the way things are in New York versus the very traditional southern way of life.
So, now the question: What the hell do I do now?
It may seem like a ridiculous question to those of you already up and running in product design, but no matter where I look I can’t seem to find ANYONE that even knows such a position exists much less someone involved in it. Even my college professors just drew complete blanks when asked about the product design industry.
I guess to start things off, here’s a few questions that would be very helpful if answered:
What is expected of an engineer at a product design firm? it was my impression that the engineer’s job is to take an industrial designer’s design vision and make it practical for manufacture as well as remedy any problems that may cause poor function or other mechanics/dynamics/kinematics issues. In spite of my impression, it seems many companies ask for things like hand sketch samples or simple prototypes, etc., something I’ve never really needed to do before. At my previous job, sketches never went past a crude “napkin sketch” before being created in SolidWorks in “cartoon form” and then turned into a workable product from there. I understand that industrial designers like making models because they lack the heavy math and physics background and rely on a more “gut intuition” when it comes to mechanical design, but why is this also expected from engineers? If a model was to be made, wouldn’t it be made by the industrial designers before it was passed on to the engineers? It’s not that I can’t sketch, but I feel like I could make a simple Solidworks model just as fast as a clean sketch and then I could easily modify that model into a real product, so I just don’t see the need for advanced sketches.
What do companies look for in an engineer’s portfolio? I know industrial designer portfolios are abound all over the internet, but design engineer portfolios are quite rare and random. Other than showing what I’ve worked on in an aesthetically pleasing manner, what do they want to see?
How on earth do I get work experience when all job listings want 5+ years experience and all internships want someone still enrolled in college? I feel like I’m trapped in a horrible paradox of too much experience to be considered for an internship on the grounds I would be bored and unwilling to do the entry level tasks assigned or find a full time job and leave halfway through, and on the other hand I don’t have enough experience to be a completely autonomous senior engineer. Money isn’t even really an issue at this point, I would gladly work for free or minimal pay to increase my experience and have contacts and relevant experience in the city, but I can’t seem to find an opportunity. While I would prefer small consumer product design like electronics packaging, office supplies, kitchen appliances, etc., I would be willing to do anything from sinks to beds to lamps, etc. My only stipulation is that the company is within an hour transit by subway from Manhattan. Is it really too much to ask to get a job as a design engineer in New York without already having 5 years of experience? Even though I’ve only been in New York a short time, I would be miserable if I had to move anywhere else.
Is there any sort of convention/club/etc. where I could network and meet New York-based industrial designers or design engineers? I feel a big reason I haven’t found a job is that I don’t have any contacts and so I get a “who’s this guy?” when I send in my resume/portfolio and since I’m not an overwhelming powerhouse of experience I can’t make a strong impression with my portfolio alone. Not to imply this is the case for anyone on here, but I find most engineers I’ve known are very anti-social and prefer to go into the corner and chug numbers and hate a heavily integrated environment, and seeing as I’m not like that at all, I think if I were able to actually meet the lead designers (or whoever is in charge of hiring) they would find my social aptitude a major plus.
Hopefully there’s at least one design engineer or someone that works closely with one lurking around these forums and can help me out. All I know is that whatever career path I pick now, I’ll be doing for a very long time, so it has to be something I love in a city I love and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Design engineers encompass a lot of different and varied roles and skills in the ID world. They can be Pro E guys, who take data from designers and detail them out to correct thicknesses, tolerances etc, which would then get further detailed for production by factories, etc. Then there are design engineers who focus more on exploring and finding mechanical solutions for in progress designs. In a good setting, they’ll be sitting and working with designers from day one. There are a number of ID consultancies in the city that use design engineers, in house and freelance, in both of these capacities. At a consultancy in NY though, you’ll probably do a lot of both sides. The big ad agencies usually have an engineer on staff too to help with POP and promotional engineering solutions.
A couple good steps for you would be to look through the Core ID firm listings to see who’s in NYC then look at their websites to see what they do and what there process is like. You probably need to get some kind of portfolio together too. For en engineer, this should be a few pages of projects that show the problems that needed to be solved, and what the options were, and what the final solution was, why it was better, etc.
As far as workflow, be ready to do SW or Pro really well, build breadboard type mechanical mockups, do quick sketches to explain the mechanical concepts.
I’m really looking toward doing the latter role, that is, working with the designers on the function of the device rather than just spec’ing tolerances all day, but if I had to do both, I would be OK with that.
I already made a portfolio (4th iteration, the first 3 were pretty much garbage) and I guess I could post the PDF if anyone knows of a good free hosting site that would let me link to it here and no one can think of any reason that revealing my real name and e-mail (both in the portfolio) might be a problem. I guess I could edit out the parts with my name in it, but it’ll make it seem a little disjointed, but whatever, at least you’ll still get the idea.
I guess the main thing I’m wondering is if it is common for a design engineer to get a job in New York with little to no experience (at least not mid-level experience) and work up vs. having to move to some podunk-based ultra company and be miserable for 5 years until I have enough experience to work in New York. Like I said, I’m very flexible on what roles I would take on and what type of products I would be making, but no matter what I want to stay in New York.
so, wow, I guess there aren’t any design engineers on this forum, then, huh?
What rocks do design engineers hide under when they get off of work? I’ve been in New York 5 months and I have yet to meet a single person that even knows an engineer much less a design engineer. I’ve met various analogs to design like architects, etc., but no engineers. Does anyone have any clue how to be appealing in order to get an interview for a job in this field? I’ve made a portfolio of my previous work that I can’t imagine making any better, I have a solid academic past, I have a year and a half of experience, so why can’t I even get an interview for any job or internship I’ve applied to? What is the secret here? Is the only way to get a design engineering job to create a parallel universe where I already have a design engineering job? Sorry if this comes off as whiny/desperate/whatever, but I love this city (New York) and a large reason I went to college for engineering was because I was under the impression it would be less competitive for finding work than most other degrees, but hell, even with a near impeccable engineering past I’m not getting shit. What is the deal here?
I am your intermediary between industrial designers and mechanical engineers, First piece of advice mate, NEVER GIVE UP.
Second of all, when employers ask for portfolio’s and previous prototypes, generate a nice looking cad portfolio, remember using cad isn’t just a tool, if there is artisan-ship behind the model then its fine.
also state that your a go-between the concept and the manufactured item, this sort of real world grounding is essential in design engineering and you are often pursuing innovative ideas when engineering to solve a particular design problem or technical challenge with the product.
Well, that’s pretty much what my portfolio has: CAD models and finished products with brief descriptions.
I think alot of this is just bad market timing and companies are making due with industrial designers that have a basic understanding of engineering or are grabbing mid-level engineers at entry level salaries. Hopefully I’ll get a fair shot soon.