Help for a late bloomer

Any thoughts on where to begin on the design journey when starting late in life. I’m nearing 40 and can’t help feeling that the thing that’s been missing in my life is ‘design’ - from concept through to commercialisation.

The kind of questions I’m trying to answer for myself are:

  • Do I get into it as a past-time/hobbie? Have others found this to be rewarding enough?
  • Do I make it part of the way I currently work - i.e. sexier presentation, novel thinking, etc?
  • Do I need to study towards it? If so, where to begin?
  • Lastly, do I do a Nike i.e. Just do it

I know this isn’t a psychology forum but I would welcome thoughts, suggestions and stories from other late bloomers.

Thanks. And for every contiributor to Core77 - your creations are inspirational.

Yes. If you want to be part of design, design has to be part of you. Even professional designers still design as a hobby, so this is at least a good place to start.

Yes. The more you try to apply design thinking to things in life, the better you will be at it. I don’t think we can claim that every novel thought is design, but you can certainly apply the type of thinking to other things in your life. Doing so at work may even get your boss to take notice :wink:

Yes. This forum is a great place to start. Look through the sketching, projects, and portfolios forums to see what kind of things people are working on and how they are presented. There are also stickied threads of other good websites to browse and good books to read.


Edit: to elaborate on the just do it question… a big part of design is failure. Most fields treat failure like the plague, but in subjective fields the best way to evaluate success is to compare it to the failures that led you there. Don’t be afraid to fail horribly, welcome harsh critiques, let it be fuel to get better.

Thanks Spizzy. Appreciate your feedabck.

I recommend to get some designer software and just start to know it while you still have an income. If you have it under control, try to design something real for somebody of a company. Just for free to lower the boundary for them. This will develop new skills and maybe a sort of a track record. Then you can try to apply for jobs, or freelance stuff and GO!

Bottom line: Don’t hasitate, go for it and have patience. Keep your eyes and ears open!


I view “software”, like pen and paper, markers, and modeling clay, as production tools; they really have very little to do with the actual act of “design”. What they do, is allow you to share your thoughts with others. Especially at the beginning of a “design education”, slogging through the learning curve of a CAD program would be restrictive.

Having said that, CAD has enabled the manufacture of complex shapes that we now see in products, automobiles in particular come to mind, but it is still the designer’s brain that wields the stylus; obviously, humans have been producing complex shapes for eons.

I would suggest strongly a “formal” design class at a local college, even something as basic as “Design 101 or Life Drawing 101”; it will give you a sense of the very subjective nature of the design field. And not to throw a wet blanket on your enthusiasm, as an “objectively trained engineer” you may not be comfortable in the environment.

While Industrial Design might be the 9th best job in America it is a highly competitive, and limited field. I am not aware of the ratio of graduates-to-jobs but it is high. So if you find the subject of interest enough to seriously consider a change to the field, you will need credentials. Would seriously you consider a candidate for a ChemE position who had no formal chemistry training?

You will also need to be willing to start at the bottom again; entry level salaries are in the neighborhood of $42K, with only about 10% of designers being in the $60K+ category.

Just my $.02US.