How best to go forward in industrial design?


I would really appreciate some advice.

I am based in the UK and I recently got turned down by the RCA for an MA in industrial design. I don’t have a typical design background. I completed an engineering degree, then ran a business for two years which involved some major product design. Since then I have been working in corporate finance - mainly to pay off debts. I am finally in a better financial position and now able to focus on what I want to do in life. I have always loved design and since leaving university have worked on developing graphic and web design skills. I always hoped to go into design again but was never sure what area to go into. Over the last year and a half I became more interested in industrial design and feel that I had found my niche. I realised in order to get into the industry I needed to develop some skills and get onto a decent course. I have been working on sketching, reading case studies learning about the process of design over the last year. The RCA course looked perfect but I guess I wasn’t really what they were looking for. So going forward;

1 I still need to get onto a course - St Martins as a second option looks okay but seems to get a bad rap on these boards. Any other suggestions?
2 Are there any resources (am currently using the gnomon dvds + Rockport books) that I should be looking at to help me learn industrial designer?
3 Currently I still work in corporate finance. I would love to work for a design agency in some capacity ideally as a junior designer ( not sure how realistic this is given my limited experience) or in some other area - project manager/ finance department. - Given that this is going to be my source of income is this a realistic possibility?

Really would appreciate any feedback at all.



It sounds like you are very dedicated to making this happen. Figuring out what you want to do I think is the biggest step. Staying on path to your goal is the next hardest thing to do.

I’m not super familiar with UK school, but I would get into an ID program as fast as you can. Most design firms are not big enough to have dedicated project managers (usually a design director or design manager - who is an experienced designer - handles those functions), but getting in the door anywhere so you can be exposed to a creative environment is a great idea. I hope some locals can give you some more direction…

Thanks for the kind words. Staying the course is tough but because I love what is involved it will be okay.

I think I pretty much know what I have to do. Getting onto a programme is a priority as is contacting various design agencies to see what is on offer.



  • go for a bachelors, should take 3 years. the ID Masters is not particularly advantagous unless you want to teach.

I’m curious, because it comes up here often, why did you apply at a graduate level? I’m not that familiar with engineering education, is it commom for people with, say a business degree/experience to get into masters of engineering programs?

Almost never, because there are basically no similarities between the two curriculae. However, Razor says he already has an engineering degree, and I think that’s a fairly common entrance route to ID…

I dunno about a master’s program, but in my B.ID class we have people from mechanical engineering, marketing (she dropped out, but did okay), pure mathematics, business, and of course fine arts. As well as the 2-3 people who came out of a professional engineering practise, and the many straight out of high school.

The discipline’s just so broad that just about anything can be used as a springboard provided you’re somewhat creative and willing to work like nuts.

Yep I originally completed an engineering degree. The RCA course in particular was looking for people who had an engineering qualification.

Maybe a bachelors would in fact be a better move. It would however be three years and is unlikely to be as flexible as some of the masters that I have looked at. In the uk I am not sure how many “mature” students would be on a bachelors degree.



In the UK it is much more common for designers to have graduate level education. In fact, I’ve read that is nearly mandatory for some employers.

I would certainly try to reapply to RCA. Always start with the best school that you can find and work your way down. I’m not sure if they require a portfolio, but if you have been sketching and creating, you may have a better chance to get in now.

In the meantime, I would get a job as close to designers as you can. It sounds like you have been there before. I think experiencing the same product development maelstrom would be the most beneficial education someone can receive.

I would not give up on RCA. The entry requirements are very competitive, i had a friend who tried 3-4 times before he got in. So i would suggest you keep on trying. Mean while read up all you can on ID. Do what ever it takes to keep your day job’s seat warm, but spend the rest of the time inproving yourself.

Did RCA give an indication on why you did not get in?

I have got in touch with the university on learning their decision but they have made it clear that they have a policy on not giving feedback. I understand that it’s a lot of effort for them but would appreciate knowing so that I can work on whatever skills weren’t good enough.

I got selected for an interview. I am not sure if that means anything as I think a lot of applicants were interviewed. There are three parts to the process - student interview, course director interview and written exercise -On the day I thought the interview with students was okay, the interview with course directors wasn’t great and the written exercise was okay.

I think the only chance for feedback is if I can get in touch with the students who interviewed me. Who I am trying to get email addresses for at the minute.

When you say your friend repeatedly applied does that mean he kept trying year after year? i.e it took him/ her four years to get in? As I want to stay in the UK I cant see another programme as good as what the RCA offers (maybe someone can correct me on that) . However given that they don’t want me I am going to have to try and get into something else and consider reapplying in the future.