How Many Designers Get Their Hands Dirty?

How many designers go past sketching and solid-modeling and take an active role in bringing prototypes and finished work to life?

Do you take part in the model making, including use of CAM with software programs like Mastercam?

Do you or your company employee an in-house modelmaker?

  • or do you outsource to a service bureau?
  • if so is it overseas?

I’m curious about the hand-off from concept to finished prototype. Who is involved, what job titles? Corporate vs Consultancy

…i enjoy getting my ‘hands dirty’…i do it every chance i get…the sooner i get something in 3D the sooner the solution becomes obvious, imo…


with a small design staff, we wear multiple hats. This includes everything from sketching to CAD to model making, to design managment. I enjoy all of it, and any one facet would become tedious, and boring in itself.

If you consider foam core getting your hands dirty then I do. Other than that, it’s pretty much cheaper, faster, and better fit and finish to job the work out. I can spend 2 days working on a foam appearance model, or in 5 days we can have a working proto cut from ABS at the local machine shop. No contest.

When I worked at a design firm, we frequently made out own foam models, or models for other on the team, mixed our own paint colors to match pantones by eye, made breadboards and prototypes, cast urethane parts, vac forming, etc.

Now that I work for a large corporation we have people to do all of those things, but spending 5 years doing it myself was great. It helps me to budget time better, and to know what should be simple, and what might be difficult. Here we are all responsible for taking the product from concept to production, so while we don’t get our hends dirty, we are, corecting 3d files, specing textures in molds, making tool safe changes, helping pattern engineers nest panels for less waste, and so on…

I miss making stuff every once in awhile, which is why I have a garage full of tool… I never use :wink:

When I started in the corporate world I made, by hand, models of everything I designed. Slowly, as budgets allowed, I built up a small machine shop and prototypes became more inclusive. With advent of rapid prototyping technologies I became less hands on at design-styling prototypes, but in conjunction with my machine shop, we created small runs of fully functional product designs.

I think hands on model making / prototyping is fundamental to becoming an effective designer. Now consulting on my own, I often see large multinational corporations’ engineering teams relying on documented product development processes and digital tools, removing the designers from all hands on work. The amount of oversight, amateurish, bone-headed mistakes is astonishing, as are the arguments for certain design decisions in reviews. The answer some of these companies adopt is DFM software. Ridiculous, in my opinion.