If not design, then what?

A thread in transportation has gone off the rails after someone posted a video of Chris Bangle talking about a guy that graduated Art Center, worked at the Big 3 for 10 years, then went and worked in banking for 10 years. It brought up the question of what would we do if we weren’t designers?

My thoughts:

If Quebec had a 3 year engineering program, I think I would have a bachelor’s of ME now. The thought of going to school for 4 more years is a real turn off to any career change at this point!

Careers I’ve considered when frustrated at my ID jobs:
-CIA agent
-Custom’s agent
-Freelance IDer

Anybody else have a weird list?

I like making stuff. Unfortunately as your career “progresses”, you get to do that less and less.

I used to restore cars, I could go back to that.
Artist, specifically sculpture.
Ikea furniture assembler.
Bicycle mechanic.
All being of time, matter and space.

$600MM coming on the lottery tonight. If I win, playboy.

I like creativity and engineering, get to know how things work, etc. As I said in the transportation thread, ME is quite interesting, building stuff, thinking of the best solution possible, new concepts, etc These are my five parallel lives,

  • Architect
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Racing mechanic
  • Surfboard shaper or skateboard maker or anything related
  • Marketing, kind of looking for new business opportunities, trends, etc

Anyway, I found out design is exactly what I like so I don’t see myself doing anything else at the moment.

@Jay Shouldn’t be ID Freelancer considered as IDer?

ID freelancer is ID, but I’ve never really done it. It takes more of an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s very different from what I do.

I forgot racing car mechanic. I’d love to wrench in Superbike or something, even a national series. Pretty cool. No one ever explained that those are careers in high school.

Luckily I’m vary happy with what I’ve chosen to do, but my list would be:

fine artist
yoga instructor

I rarely fantasize about other jobs but when I do, it seems always related to arts/design somehow. Here’s my list :

Candy/gummy designer at Wonka
Professional skateboarder

The other way around is also interesting, my “would hate to do” job list would be:


international art thief

Digital Artist
Stay at home Dad

funny thing everything i would want to do can tie back to design in some way or shape…

Being a pilot would seem nice, but that is only from Red Baron experience and no actual knowledge.

Watch out Neal Caffrey :laughing:

Sports Medicine/Physical Therapy
Something in the Gaming/Esports industry
Concept Art

However, I would put fashion, interior design, graphic design, entertainment etc. In front of all of the above if it were an option!

Buddhist monk
Professional paintball player (woodsball)
Paintball gear/gun designer
Detective (maybe a PI?)

I can sort of answer it from the other way around. I was a product designer for a while until I left my job to go travelling, because I was getting a bit jaded. Whilst travelling the credit crunch hit the UK and for various reasons I couldn’t/didn’t go back. Since then I have worked in a call centre, a library, as a chalet chef, an exam assistant and now I’m an admin assistant in a college. The thing is I would say I am more passionate as a designer now than I was when I did it as a job. I learnt a very important lesson about doing what you love as a job, which for me, personally took a lot of the joy out of it. A friend once told me that if you do something that you don’t make any money from, you can only ever call it a hobby. I’m ok with this. The problem I now have is that working full time in something that doesn’t bring in a lot of coin and only gives me the odd evening and weekend free, means i don’t have as much time as I want, to do the things i love. So as a slightly different opinion, I would say if I could afford to I would do anything that made me enough money to survive working just for a few days a week, the job would not be important, freeing me up more time to potter about exploring ideas, designing and making models.

Same here, I hope one day I can get to buy a old motorbike, redesign it a bit and fix it. Some of my friends studying ME were constructing a racing car at Uni and competed against others in Silverstone. I was quite jealous of that, anyway, Germans were always wining these races, huge budget plus technical aid from Audi / BMW / VW / Mercedes.

  • Heist organizer (Charlie Croker, Danny Ocean, Nick Wells)
  • Foreign Service Officer / Diplomat
  • Carpenter
  • Roboticist
  • Marketer/Advertiser

cool thread!

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, as I can’t really hack it as a designer. The main ideas I’ve been kicking around are:

custom bicycle builder
craft brewmaster
non-profit administrator

The two former certainly aren’t big moneymakers, but they are both creative and hands-on which I think would make me happy. The latter is largely a plan for getting out of student loans… If you work, salaried, for a non-profit while paying on student loans (including income based plans) your loans are forgiven after 10 years. I figured, if I were ever to go that route, why not just start my own non-profit and be my own boss. I’ve had a couple ideas… maybe an organization to promote small houses (tumbleweed, etc) and minimal living. …perhaps an organization to promote competitive cycling to youth. There are a lot of potential topics.

Since graduation from Purdue’s ID program in 1973 it’s gone like this…

Window Dresser, Foundry Worker, Motorcycle Mechanic - during summers while in school.
Industrial Designer - proprietary consumer electronics manufacturer
Senior Industrial Designer - motorcycle accessories manufacturer
As-built Draftsman - nuclear power plant construction contractor
Designer/Technical Illustrator - USAF space shuttle project (support systems development)
Senior mechanical Designer - USAF space shuttle contractor (test range maintenance)
Sailor - blue water (would run away to sea if I had the means)
Principal Designer/Partner - R/C hobby manufacturing company (concurrent with above)
Senior industrial Designer - electronic instrumentation manufacturer
Independent Industrial design consultant
Independent Contractor - nuclear power plant
Heavy Equipment Operating Engineer - too much fun (perhaps should have considered this at an earlier age)…
Electric Mapping Technician - major utility company
Veterinary Technician (under consideration as post “retirement” activity) … like that’s ever going to happen.

The moral? It pays (although not necessarily that well) to be flexible.

^that’s impressive to say the least