How do you get there?


I decided to pursue industrial design coming from an engineering background, fully committing to it as of early this year. But before getting to that, a little bit about where I’ve been:

Apart from being passionate about art and design from a very young age, I saw myself drawing, designing and putting things together as I grew older. I was told mechanical engineering had enough design in it to fulfil my passion, but later found that wasn’t the case.

So I graduated as a mechanical engineer (BEng) a few years ago, then I got a PGCert in renewable energy engineering before spending a year working as a project engineer in the oil and gas industry. That career path ended and have been unemployed since then (been doing temp jobs here and there to support family etc. while actively job hunting).

I did apply to many design jobs after graduating but failed to show any examples of my work as I didn’t know how important a portfolio is back then. Despite having had many successful design projects at university (also won a prestigious design award and excelled over my colleagues) it was all academic, I didn’t do any personal projects and I wasn’t lucky enough to have an internship in between studying, so basically no real work experience, which a lot of employers tend to disregard.

I never felt fulfilled, design was still in my DNA. Unfortunately I wasn’t introduced to industrial design until after I graduated. I researched, asked and observed how industrial designers do their work and I could related to it far more than anything I done in the past. So now, especially after being unemployed, I have dedicated all my time to pursue this career path.

In the past months I have purchased a few industrial design books, and opened an Instagram account (@zeyaddesign) to document my learning and connect with other designers. I wanted to educate myself about the industry and their processes.

So here I am, unemployed with a childhood dream and a passion for design that I can’t get rid of.

My question to all of you who were lucky enough to get there:

How did you do it? How did you get your foot in the door? and what do you think I can do to get my foot in the door???



My story:
After graduating with a degree in ID, I moved to Chicago, a new city for me. I went to all kinds of networking events, meet ups, anything that smelled vaguely like industrial design. Also applied to every open ID position in the city. I made a big spreadsheet of every design studio in Chicago and just went down the list, either finding connections via LinkedIn or just cold-emailing. I was able to get some interviews here and there, but nothing panned out.

At one designer meetup, someone told me about a makerspace/incubator downtown that was specifically geared toward physical products. I hadn’t heard of it before. I ended up connecting with them and becoming sort of an in-house design consultant, helping develop the space itself while also doing freelance projects and revamping my portfolio. This was how I first got my foot in the door. Makerspaces are great communities where you can be around other people making things, and I definitely recommend joining one. Developing just a little bit of professsional experience made a world of difference when talking to potential employers. Six months later, I got hired as a full time IDer at a small company that creates its own physical product brands. But it all goes back to that one meetup! One interaction with one person.

Advice for you:
I haven’t actually been in the industry for that long, so take this with a grain of salt… Two things. #1, it’s all about the portfolio. Sounds like you already know this. Everything else is irrelevant until you have a solid portfolio of projects to show people. #2, it sounds like you have some solid engineering experience. Why not apply for Design Engineer positions at companies that also hire IDers? While you might not be doing hardcore ID work, like sketching, you’ll still be part of the creative process and work closely with IDers. Design consulting firms would be a good place to look. Good luck!

Thanks for your reply Brian! Its fascinating and I’m happy you got there the way you did because it makes total sense. I am focused on my portfolio now trying to scrape any personal projects I can think of or work with anyone needing help. Those incubators sound interesting so I’ll look and see if such a thing exists where I live.

I did apply for Design Engineer jobs, but they all need actual experience. Seems to be most of them don’t have the time or resources to take someone relatively new in the field and show him the way, instead they look for more polished candidates already knowing what they’re doing.

I’ll grind and hustle and see what comes up, thanks alot for your input I’m really grateful :slight_smile: