How to get out of Mechanical Design?


I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Industrial Design in 2008 in Ontario, Canada. Since then, I have taken on some Mechanical Design roles in manufacturing facilities to gain some experience. However, now I feel that I am heading down the wrong path and will be stuck in a more ‘engineering’ work environment. I have been working with sheet metal and although I have learned valuable skills, I don’t really have anything exciting to put into my portfolio. I also don’t have many transferable skills in that I can’t apply sheet metal design work to something like plastics, or consumer electronics.

I’m really just wondering what my next step is. The money is pretty good, but I am bored at work. There is only so much one can design when utilizing a brake press. I will admit I haven’t been sketching on the side, because I simply don’t have the time after work or I just want to relax when I get home.

I have applied to Industrial Design positions and simply haven’t heard anything back. I feel that my portfolio is lacking, and it is, since it only contains school projects and some sheet metal design work, which isn’t too appealing.

How do I break out of this path? Are my skills important in any way, or have I wasted a few years? Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks guys :slight_smile:

“This is the real secret of life–
to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now.
And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
Alan Watts

When you started this sheet metal job, did you feel anything for it at the beginning? Was it simply to have a job? And what is it about plastics, or consumer electronics that you really want to apply yourself to?

I think what all of us ID’er can learn from our esteemed and famous colleague Mr Ive at Apple is the willingness to understand the smallest details of a process or material in order to transcend it. A frumpy German company called Festo took very un-sexy pneumatic valves and made amazing products and concepts from them. Blu Dot and other companies do great things with flat-pack powder-coated sheet metal. Do your work, be paid, exert extra effort if you wish to rise from your own inertia, and think of all the ways your current job can help you expand your skills (and portfolio if you wish).

I hear what you are saying, however it’s limitations within the corporation that stifles creativity, as well as the limitations of the material. It’s very difficult to make ‘design’ changes as the product is regulated by standards etc. Modifying too many elements will mean the product does not meet these standards.

I did enjoy sheet metal work at first, however I’ve picked up on a most of it already and it all seems redundant now. I don’t get to sketch at my job…well i sketch little profiles of parts to see interaction and interference, but I don’t get to sketch sexy designs with swooping curves etc . I know my experience is valuable as I know how to take a product from concept to completion, but I just don’t think it’s creative enough for me.

It’s difficult to transfer into something like furniture design or electronics design, when all employers see on my resume is sheet metal design.

Then it is time to design your way out of your predicament and learn the force of sheer will. Pick the category that you really REALLY want to work in and start designing and sketching TODAY. Sketch during your lunch break, brainstorm in your head during your commute, and bust out some 3D models at night with some good music and a glass of wine (or what have you).

Visualize where you want to be and start chipping away, a little bit at a time. A good sketch here, a nice render there, and pretty soon you will have a pile on your desk to choose from. It might take years to get where you want to be, but that’s OK.

Naturally you would prefer to relax when you get home, but speaking as a father of a two month old baby, you get no sympathy from me. Get to work! :smiley:

ditto - but four months old - and its hard to go home and sketch when someone else is letting you know he has poopy pants. :laughing:

I’ve been tempted to design a device that straps a bottle to his little head at just the right angle so I have a free hand for the TV remote! :laughing:

I’ve been tempted to design a device that straps a bottle to his little head at just the right angle so I have a free hand for the TV remote!

Too late… . .