Industrial Des. along with Mechanical Eng.

Hello, I know people ask this kind of questions all the time and I know you guys are just terrific on these topics, I just couldn’t find the right advice for me.
I’m starting my college path on spring but the real deal is going to start on Fall2013 and I’m not quite sure about choosing the right path. First I wanted to study Civil Engineering (B.S) and right after doing some research I discovered that Mechanical Engineering (B.S) is exactly what I was looking for but I believed I’m not going to be designing all the time, and the “come up with new inventions” is my thing. On the other hand, I don’t want to choose only Industrial Design (B.S)(wich I really really like) because it has no psychics, calculus, fluid mechanics, dynamics, etc.


I’m glad you realize you won’t be doing much designing in Mechanical Engineering. I didn’t before I went into it but, like you, I’m not sure if I would have been happy in pure ID without the physics, calculus, etc.

What I would suggest is find out which one is most important to you, then do the other in your spare time. Once I found out I wanted to do design as well, I found some students in ID and asked them what their favourite textbooks were, then bought a few and read them front to back, working through the exercises as well. There’s a thread on this board that has some great design books listed, and if you decide to go into ID I’d be happy to recommend some engineering text books.

Depending on where you go, there may also be opportunities to take classes in the other discipline, though the elective slots in engineering are virtually non-existent (I got one elective in 4.5 years).

ME Books that will be good introduction for product designers?? please tell me!!

Hah! Alright :stuck_out_tongue:

In the order I would read them in:

Statics: Vector Mechanics for Engineers (Statics) - Beer, Johnston & Eisenberg
Calculus: Calculus Concepts & Contexts - Stewart
Dynamics: Engineering Mechanics (Dynamics) - Hibbeler
Materials: Materials Science and Engineering (an Introduction) - Callister & Rethwisch
Summation and application: Shigley’s Mechanical Engineering Design - Budynas & Nisbett

I’m sure there are some better ones out there, as I’m only pulling from the pool of course textbooks, but these were the best ones that I’ve used so far.

This will pretty much take you up to the end of the 3rd year of an ME program. For just the basics, I would recommend just reading statics and materials, however to cover most force situations you’ll also need dynamics, which you need calculus for, and to be able to calculate beyond ballpark ranges, you’ll need to understand failure modes, etc. covered in the final book.

I’ve also wondered that too… aside from calculus what else would be good for a designer to know about engineering that they may not learn in a design program?? I have a friend who’s an engineering and some of the technology that they are developing would provide a great context for designers.

Also which comes first, chemistry or physics??

Just so you know where this is coming from, I’m not a mech eng in the field right now, I’m in my 4th year of an ME degree, and have done a variety of internship placements, one of which was at an ID studio (and I’m looking at getting another soon). But based on that internship…

I think there are two main things from ME that are useful to have a sense or knowledge of in an ID setting, manufacturing and structural integrity.

Manufacturing: I’ve seen designers who don’t have knowledge in manufacturing, or are uncomfortable with the knowledge they have do one of two things. They’ll either go ahead with whatever concept they feel like, whether it be manufacturable or not, or they’ll play it safe and only work within the processes they know. I honestly prefer the former, its better to get the full creativity out and then solve the problem of making it work, but neither is ideal. The solution to me would be to read Making It front to back, and keep up to date with new processes. Also don’t be afraid to invent new processes based on existing technologies.

Structural Integrity: Essentially, you don’t want it to break, and you don’t want it changed drastically when an ME says that it’ll break. The reaction tends to be similar to that of manufacturing, they either make the parts way too thick (this is done all the time in engineering as well btw) or way to thin. Either way, the pure design intent isn’t being carried through. This is where the kinds of books I mentioned earlier come into play, and knowledge of stress-strain curves, safety factors, ductile vs brittle failure, etc. is important. Ultimately, the amount of time you would need to put in to be able to effectively calculate failures may not be worth it, but a quick calculation for a ballpark stress value never hurt anyone, and would save quite a bit of time further down the chain.

In addition to these, some knowledge of physics and materials may in fact help during the concept stage. For example, most people know that gyroscopes make things stay upright, but most people don’t know why (it gets into quite a bit of calculus and matrix algebra). As a quick explanation, gyroscopes turn in a direction perpendicular to the direction a torque (force) is applied, eliminating the positive feedback loop that normal toppling objects experience (which is why tops start turning in circles before they fall). My mind is still racing to find cool product applications for this property. Similarly, some knowledge of materials engineering might help if you can’t find the perfect material that you can see in your mind, just spec a certain polymer blend, annealing time, etc. Knowledge of fluid dynamics will help if you have to deal with air or water flow within the device.

I wouldn’t consider calculus as terribly important for designers to know for its own sake, if you took it in high school you should have a basic understanding of derivatives, but integrals are more important along gradients such as dam pressure, etc. (the pressure at the top of the dam is 0, the pressure at the bottom is high, what’s the total force?). Physics is definitely important, chemistry I would only consider as important as a prerequisite to materials engineering, when you start getting to the molecular level. I don’t think at the level you would be looking at them you need to worry about which comes first between the two, it only starts to matter once you start hitting the intersection between the two, which is very theoretical and not much use to designers.

The nice thing about an ME degree is that you touch every single area of engineering, they essentially educate us to the level of a third year electrical engineer by skipping the theory. Because of this, I had the knowledge necessary to prototype LED lighting systems at my internship, and spec equivalent lighting for mass production. I could also use my programming and calculus knowledge to generate algorithmic designs that would have been extremely tedious to do by hand.

Hope that sheds some light :slight_smile:

I guess I won’t change my decision and I’ll stick to what I know, what I really loved during high school and I’m good at it. Engineer… ME.
I wish I wouldn’t have this fear of living in a prison after I graduate, to not travel, to not have time to myself and my family. Which is what I really want instead of tons of money, I guess we can survive on $40k/year can’t we?

Hey Craz,

I hope you’re not making your decision entirely on info from this thread, make sure you talk to other people as well, its a big decision, your university education will greatly influence the way you think, for better or worse.

To balance the positives I’ve said about an ME degree, here’s an example of where it actually detracted from my ability to think and create:

I was asked to create a little prototype with a certain dimension and weight, to demonstrate physically the dimensions and weight a client had asked for and generate some discussion on the practicality of these guidelines. Everything in engineering is extremely algorithmic, so my first response was to pick two materials, measure the densities of them, and calculate the volumetric proportions needed to arrive at the proper weight and dimensions. The calculation was easy, but I was having a lot of trouble getting them to fit at these proportions, cutting the metal to exactly the right size, etc. After spending a few hours on it, the shop manager came to help me, he ended up creating a box of the right proportions in plastic, filling it with lead weights until it was just under the weight threshold, then filling the cavity with hot glue until the exact weight was achieved. It took about half an hour. It seems incredibly stupid looking back on it, but that’s what can happen if you don’t keep your mind open to other disciplines from the start.

Oh no, my dilemma it’s been pretty much the same since all the time.

It’s more a job issue than school issue.

What caught my attention is the idea of being an ID with out-of-school engineer knowledge and to have freedom during my creative time , maybe a couple days in other country to help me creating new ideas, why no? Is it too hard?

I started studying ME last year, but changed to ID this fall.

Personally, I’m very satisfied with the choice and having a lot of fun. However, this is a choice you have to make yourself. Are you interested in making an already conceived product work? Or would you rather create your own designs/inventions from your imagination?

Many ID degrees also include a couple of engineering courses such as mechanics, material technology and production technology.

Don’t think too much about money. It is impossible to know the job market four or five years from now. Far more important it is, to study something you enjoy, because then you can become really good at it. And skilled people always get jobs.

No one says it better than Alan Watts: