How did you choose your industry?

Did you know you wanted to design what you do before you went to school? Did you kinda fall into it? Do you design for many industries or are your products related to each other? Do you get to choose what you design or do you get assignments?

Right now I’m looking for the right school for me and my biggest problem is I’m not sure what I want to design.

I don’t want repetitive work and I want to be able to choose what type of projects I take on. I know that will probably be a long time coming, but it’s important. I don’t want to be stuck designing the same thing but “different!” (Think iPhones and macs. I love macs but they haven’t changed much over the years.)

What I want is to find some product, think ‘how can we make this better’, and brainstorm with a team and prototype til it’s market ready. I’m just not sure what.

So how did you get into whatever it is you’re designing and do you recommend it?

Qothw, you don’t need to focus too much on that at this point. There are only 5 or so people on the Apple team, so your chances of accidentally being there are probably less then accidentally being an NBA player :slight_smile: I think the best thing to do right now would be to focus on getting into a good design school with a well rounded program. UC, Cleveland Institute of Art, schools that focus on the full process and don’t have too much emphasis on specializations.

Thanks for the advice. I’ll slow my roll on this. I was just curious as it seems what school you go to and where you live determines what you’ll be designing. I’d hate to invest and move across the country just to fall into something I don’t like.

Life will take you where it will. Arizona State was very tech oriented when I was in school. However, I’ve only worked in architectural products since then.

Also, something that I’ve seen, is that pigeon holing isn’t permanent. The problem is more that sometimes you’ll have to take a step down in salary or position to move between industries. So if you want to try things, try moving around when you are young without a mortgage or kids:)

I’ve found that pigeon holing is all in the mind. When I started my own studio this year after 20 years in the business people immediately asked me what I was going to specialize in. My reply is great design for clients who get it across every industry. I got a lot of funny looks in response, but just two months into my studio I’ve got 6 clients:

  • luxury luggage brand
  • realestate developer (concepting interior/exterior for a piece of architecture)
  • automotive tier one supplier
  • e-bike company
  • European cycling brand
  • Vehicles for a Hollywood movie

That is a pretty diverse list and I’m just out of the gates. I’ve found that the key is proving you can do the work. When I went from my first consulting job to Nike, I presented 100 concept shoe sketches on a giant poster in the interview. When I went from the Nike brand to Jordan I did a concept project for Jordan at night for the head of design at Jordan and presented it to Mark Parker. After working at Nike for 8 years going to interview at frog I presented 2 complete conceptual smartphone projects jawing the ID and storyboards for the use cases… What I’m getting at is if you have the desire and ability to work for it, you can make it happen. Takes elbow grease, a good attitude, and the ability to not let others define you. First thing somebody said when I interviewed at frog was “ugh, a shoe guy”… my response was I was a design director for one of the most globally recognized brands working with high performance edge cases to develop industry leading product… just happened to be shoes. If frog wasn’t interested in that experience set then I was clearly in the wrong place… I got an offer that day.

Focus on doing the best work you can and create a long term vision and definition of yourself. some people won’t get it, don’t waste time with them. Focus on the people who do get it and want to help you do the best work you can, be they clients, employees, teachers, engineers, marketers, other designers. And by that I don’t mean people who will just prop you up, I mean people who will challenge you and push you, but get it.

Hello, I made a course started working in the industry & then back to college again. Everyone should check the industry first. Most have a for feel for what they want to do, but don’t make a trip to any companies or workplaces, after they get there in on month they are more than bored or don’t like it at all. Everyone has some interest in something, look for it by visiting has I said companies and workplaces. One thing you will find, certainly, is people that have more money than brains. Start by the costumer, in this case, that’s you!

At first, I wanted to be a car designer. Right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be a car designer? Then, I did a semester in car design. That alone would have cured that bug but I also spoke with a junior designer at Ford that semester too. She told me she had designed steering wheels for 18 months. She drew countless circles. I can’t imagine.

In school, I did find medical devices to be interesting. There is a lot to learn, a process I enjoy. I did several surgical projects at the time.

My first gig out of school was a lot of farm equipment.

My second gig happened to be with a firm that did medical devices. Purely blind luck I saw the job, applied to the job and got the job. Never once did a surgical device there.

Learning the quality system for medical devices is unique and valuable. It makes me marketable and able to have my next job based more on experience than dumb luck.

Still waiting to do a surgical product, but the chances are getting better.

Thanks for all the feedback guys! yo I screenshot’d your advice so I can remember it always. That last paragraph is gold.

I’ll definitely try to intern at school and see where that takes me. I really want to experiment and try everything before I choose anything. I definitely don’t want to be that junior designer at Ford. That sounds like hell…

I think I may be mis-understanding this statement but when I read “I want to be able to choose what type of projects I take on” that will limit you alot to freelance. Most companies who do a variety of work are not going to let you choose what projects you work on necessarily, the classic is when IDEO puts an Architect on a finance driven project. Understand the process and like yo said, work hard and you will land where you want. Konstantin Grcic once said something along the lines of “I like to design things in size from a chair to a table.” I always thought this was an interesting statement because he used size to describe his desired enjoyment of work.

Thanks AV. I might have misspoke. What I meant is I want to like the project. I know not everything will be fun and engaging 24/7, but I don’t want to end up mindlessly drawing something forever like the junior designer drawing steering wheels for 18 months. I like to be challenged and engaged in things. So being passionate about a project really matters to me. I dislike that feeling of stuckness (if that makes sense).

[quote="…I don’t want to end up mindlessly drawing something forever like the junior designer drawing steering wheels for 18 months. I like to be challenged and engaged in things. So being passionate about a project really matters to me. I dislike that feeling of stuckness (if that makes sense).[/quote]

You might translate that into, you like to take ownership of your projects. HR/business people like that.

Yo: You and Karim Rashid must be the best design-salespeople in the world.

eh, I win some I loose some like anybody. It is a numbers game to some extent. They say you need to be in the right time at the right place… so bee in as many places at as many times as possible :slight_smile: The hardest thing is just saying no. It is the scariest thing to do. Way scarier than saying yes to something you are not sure if you can do. I try to that as much as possible and it comes easy for me luckily… but saying no to a project or job is really really hard. I do it a lot though because it just doesn’t do anybody any good to do something that I don’t feel is the right fit for me. The client (or employer) will feel it in the work and the process. Instead I try to recommend a designer who would enjoy that project or be the right fit. Maybe that client does really well with my friend and I never see them again, but hopefully I’ve educated them on what would be the right project for me and when that comes up they come back. And hopefully that friend does the same for me… sorry, went a little OT there, but it is still connected a bit.

It took me a few years to learn to say “no”. It feels so important in isolation, but there is normally another opportunity not too far off in the near future anyways.

Exactly Ray. Opportunity costs. If you get busy with a project you don’t want, you might not be able to take the one you do when it rolls around next week. That said, pay the rent if you have to…

OP, you’ll probably end up doing some project(s) at some point that isn’t super appealing to you. It happens. Many ID jobs involve working on many projects at once, and they can’t all be perfect. I always try to find something that excites me about every project I do. Sometimes it’s just a fun object to sketch. Sometimes it’s focusing on a certain ergonomic touchpoint. Learning a new manufacturing process. Learning about a new set of users. Designing for a market that you really like, even if the object itself is boring. One time I was working on a pet product. I’ve never had pets, not really an animal person, and frankly it was a pretty mundane product. But I started to incorporate inspiration from modern architecture, which was a new aesthetic for me to explore. And we had to minimize shipping size for a very large product, which was a fun problem to solve that translates to many other industries. There’s a silver lining to every project! Heck, maybe it’s just an opportunity to apply your favorite color.

Totally, it is a mix. You might get a great project, but a bad client, you might get a lame project but with a great client you love working with… or a great project with a crap engineering team… there are a lot of parameters. In the end, your work determines what kind of of projects you do. I did some crap projects out of school, but I gave them everything I had and knocked them out of the park which let me go after bigger projects. With each projects my network grew and I was able to get better work… you need to build it one block at a time. If I had a kid working for me right out of school and he refused a project because he thought it was beneath him I’d fire him on the spot. You need to earn that. So beep it all in balance. Of course you have the right not to do something, and your employer has the right to not employee you anymore. I’ve been on both sides of that. Instead of turning down a project or being a general pebble in the shoe complaining all the time, I’ve just left jobs to move on.

Getting back to my original advice, focus on doing good work and being a person people like working with… the rest follows that. If you don’t have those two things the odds stack up against you.

While you say that in a figurative sense, I have done it in a literal sense.

And in reality, 4 fascinating and challenging projects.

well payed. :smiley:

It takes a while. It feels so important in isolation, but there is another opportunity not too far away in the near future. :smiley: