Getting into the field

I just joined the forum. This is a great source for information. I was hoping you guys could help me out with some advice.

I recently graduated (May 05’) from college with a degree in Business Marketing on the advice of friends and family. However, I have always had a passion for design and regret not majoring in ID or engineering.

My question is how can I get into the Industrial Design field? Is there a way in with a marketing degree? Do I need to go back to school? If so, would I need to go for the full four years? Is grad school an option? I appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks!

(Thanks to deez)

What is that?

sorry Brian, got caught copy/pasting urls to two different people - and swapped them.
Your question has been asked numerous times and deez compiled a listing of the threads.
try this one: Go to school or “work my way up”?

Thanks for listing those posts. I read through all of them and basically what I have been able to summarize is:

(1) At 24 years old, it is possible to go back to school. An Undergrad program is the best for building a portfolio, however this is a 3 1/2 - 4 year commitment. A masters degree is really only beneficial if one wants to teach or is ready for upper-level managment (VP of Design, etc.).

(2) My marketing background may be of some value, however a more technical background such as mechanical engineering or architecture would be better for doing actual design.

(3) The field is highly competitive and difficult to make a substantial salary, i.e. over $130K with the average being around 40-50K. Additionally, only about 10% who enter the profession end up making a successful career as an actual designer.

At this point I am still torn. The low salary and success rate are definitely negatives. I majored in business because a high income is definitely important to me.

However, I love all aspects of design and the ability to be innovative. I can’t see any other career field out there that combines these two better than ID.

My whole life I have had a passion and a strong aptitude for design. I am constantly coming up with new ideas for products or ways to improve existing ones. I thought this would mesh well with a career in marketing, but as I am learning, marketing is more the implementation of innovative ideas, not necessarily coming up with the ideas themselves.

It is for these reasons that I am unsure of where to steer my career. If anyone can relate or has any advice, please let me know. Thanks.

nice summary, but it’s not that bleak.
(#3) 10% is probably true globally but if you went to a decent school in the US - more like 60-75% go. (The long term is a different issue, people tend to move out of ID after 20 years.)
the salary thing is true (if you work for someone else) but making cool stuff is more fun than buying cool stuff.

Innovation occurs everywhere, throughout an organization - if it’s enabled. ID does not have a monopoly on good ideas, a marketing director or VP who ‘gets it’ could have huge role in new product development, by creating a culture that supports ID’s goals company-wide.

there are a number of threads concerning the ID/MBA combo that you may find informative.

I like what you said about it being more fun to make cool stuff than to buy cool stuff. I definitely agree with that. It would be way more rewarding for me to be able to build something incredible than just to be able to buy it.

It is encouraging to hear that one can still be innovative within the business side such as marketing. What is the best way for someone in marketing to get into new product development? It seems most people in product development are engineers and designers. Thanks for the feedback.

I don’t want to entirely discourage you from entering ID only point out options you might prefer.

Some of the better/larger design consultancies heve full time marketing services. Corporations using NPD have Marketing requirements at the concept gates. It may just be a matter of your environment.

I hear what you are saying, and I still am interested in ID. But I do want to explore all other options before committing 4 years and X amt of money.

I have a few questions on your response. What is NPD and what do you mean by concept gate? Also, are some good design consultancies that you mentioned?

“New Product Development” or look up TPD. “Gates” are a system of timelines for deliverables governing an efficient process.

I’d imagine everyone over on the IDSA patrons listing would be likely to have full time marketing staff, but that’s just a place to start.


Chances are good none of us anonymous trolls here will or even should convince you on such a personal matter one way or another. But the “high income” that’s an important concern to you essentially sounds the death knell for even considering the traditional design career path. Personally, after now close to two decades in this field under various incarnations I have stopped encouraging anyone to make ID their daily bread. This field practically redefines lifelong financial insecurity in 2006, if only because the market is literally flooded with talented creatives working for food or various flavors of designer wannabes and other hangers-on that contribute to the washed-down image of ID today.

Others here will explain New Product Development and the Stage Gate functions as used in most corporations. What is statistically clear on the current blood-stained job marketplace is the abysmal lack of higher management, business and executive professionals with a passion for creative product ideas and riskier initiatives. With your background, you could soon be one of those and wield true power and influence in an organization by implementing an original vision where it most counts. And you will never be short of design “laborers” like the rest of us to help you achieve your goals. Better a visionary future CEO or marketing VP than another dust-covered underpaid designer in a workshop struggling against the weight of the entire system to have an impact.

I used to be one and turned that frustration into a viable business over the years, but that too is not for everyone.

My feel is your first choice was the right one. Your love of design and creative urges will find plenty of unexplored terrain to develop on the otherwise dry and staid upper floors. And if that’s not enough of a lifetime challenge for you, I don’t know what will be.

Ask yourself this - over the coming years, to survive, will businesses need more glorified CAD operators or more individuals like James Dyson and Steve Jobs, with the skills to see the larger picture and inspire others to step where no one else has before? Design means “intent” - it is defined less by the end object than by the quality and breadth of the process.

Egg’s post was probably one of the best I’ve read on here in a long while.

Fortunately for those of us who chose to pursue the design degree and the career afterwards can more easily make the jump from the designer role to the product marketing one in the future through experience. However it’s a rare case when you hear of someone in marketing moving into a designer’s shoes without a design degree or extensive training/experience, or unbelievably great innate talent for design.

I wouldn’t encourage you to get the degree until you’re totally honest with yourself. Do you have incredible innate artistic ability? Can you spin out 100 ideas, have them all shot down by some marketing clump and then turn around and sock them with 100 more without batting an eye? Have you always had a talent for sketching? Really seriously take a look around and see if you can convice yourself that you can get to the level of some of the designer’s you see here. Look through the sketching forum and portfolios. If you don’t find that you can convice yourself that you can do that kind of work, then you won’t convice anyone else. And the money thing…if you ever find yourself in a station in life where you’re in it for the money…run.

Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful responses guys.

Money is definitely not the end-all/be-all. I certainly feel that you have to love what you do in order to be successful, and that if you just go for whatever has the highest earnings potential, chances are you will never earn those dollars if you don’t like the job. That being said, I’d like to be in a field that I love with at least some potential for decent bucks.

I think one of the best things for me to do to figure out might be to go to a design firm and try to do an informational interview. Are ID firms receptive to this? Do you guys know of any in the Philadelphia, or NYC to DC area?

nobody specific in mind, but, I think that if you offered to pay for lunch you’d have your pick. check the listings here on Core and make some calls…