How to start in Industrial Design while in High School

I am going into my sophomore year in high school in the states. I have recently become interested in pursuing industrial design as an undergraduate major and eventual career. What are some things I can do now that will help me get into a college id program or internship?

I have very basic drawing experience, not having practiced enough to be called a skill. If I were to take any art classes it would have to be during junior or senior year as I have already selected courses. Would it be worthwhile to start art classes (basic art 1, and maybe sculpture?) or take CADD classes? My school also offers architecture history. I don’t really know how to produce a portfolio for an id program with rudimentary drawing skills and no experience with 3d modeling or art critique. Any and all advice, no matter how small, is a great help.

I will also be staying with family in Manhattan for a week and hopefully can visit Parsons or Pratt. Any other schools you recommend in the city or in Virginia? What are some questions to ask the tour guide and students there? Where should I visit and what should I be looking for? As someone who doesn’t know a large amount about the differences between programs, what are things that will be important to find out?

Check out Virginia Tech in VA. They are supposed to have a pretty good program.

As for you portfolio, I recently applied to SCAD for a second bachelors and the portfolio requirements didn’t call for any industrial design specific projects. It could have been drawings, renderings, photos, etc. Just art related basically. Although an ID project can’t hurt.

Hey JJMac,

Awesome to hear you’re thinking about ID so early in your high school career. I would say yes to all of the above, take art classes take a CAD class if it’s available, start drawing from observation, start trying to get a handle of drawing in perspective, take a shop class, start playing around with making stuff, even if it’s just with duct tape and cardboard, start taking things apart to see how they’re made and assembled, start thinking about problems that you experience in your daily life and what sort of solution you could come up with.

Start researching portfolio requirements at schools you are interested in. It’s been a while since I looked but most programs that require portfolio usually give a decent description of what exactly they are looking for. Based on this you can probably start to plan out what classes you want to take based on the content that you plan having in your portfolio.

Also some programs like Cincinnati’s DAAP ID program are all GPA based for admissions (I think average floats in the 3.8+ region), so don’t let your other subjects slip!

If you want to do something more self directed you can also start a thread on here documenting your work and asking for feedback, and the community can help guide you.

Most importantly, take a deep breath! :laughing: It can be overwhelming when you see professional work and you are starting from scratch. You’re already ahead of the curve, it will take a long time for you to feel comfortable sketching or using CAD software but if you enjoy the learning process you’ll start making big jumps. It’s all about mileage and putting in the hours.

Good luck, definitely continue to share your progress on the boards.

Hi JJMac,

Great to see more people interested in pursuing ID! I agree with Choto on everything he said, I would just add that you should also start sketching as soon as possible. Sketching is one of the basic and most important tools for a designer, you need to be able to communicate your ideas and the best way for that is sketching. If there’s anybody who could help you at your high school with that, ask them. I don’t know if you could take drawing lessons now, but you could do that after school or during the weekend.

I’d also start doing basic sketching tutorials like the ones you can find at or any other industrial design related website.

IDsketching; Printed Dresses and Shoes - IdSketching

There are also good sketching books like:

In my opinion, the best way to start is using a ballpoint pen. You won’t be able to erase and it’ll make you improve your line work and precision very fast. Moreover, some people in this forum have opened a thread for their sketches to get feedback and keep track of how they improve over time. There are quite a few good experienced designers here who would be more than happy to help you improve your skills.

I know Pratt has a summer program designed for high school student as an intro to I.D. My cousin took it and loved it.
As far as portfolio, sketching is a big plus. You should get “How to Draw” written by the legendary Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertling.
They teach the technic used at Art Center College of Design. For a CAD program, the best one you can learn is Rhino 3D. It is used by most industrial design company ( apple use it and so does Mercedes…), it is relatively cheap, easy to learn, a lot of free video tutorial and widely used by professionals and it can import and export a very large amount of different files. Solidworks is also widely used, but is extremely expensive and hard to learn. The nice thing with Rhino, is you can export and import files to Solidworks, and if you know Rhino, then Solidworks will be very easy to learn…