Industrial Design Entrepreneurs?

Hey guys, i’m kinda new to the design world. I am currently enrolled as an Industrial Design student (freshman) and I was wondering why there aren’t more ID graduates that go the entrepreneurship route. I’d think that since the Industrial Designer was the one inventing and creating the product why he wouldn’t want to create a business around the idea rather than give the idea to some huge corporate company that gets all the credit for the product. I know that it must be difficult to produce and distribute the product by yourself, but if you have a great idea I’d think it would be very much possible.

It certainly is possible, and happening

The use of Kickstarter has proved invaluable to designers in the US. The developments in rapid-prototyping and companies such as Protomold have meant Injection Mould tooling isn’t the investment it once was and relatively small production runs can produce components for less than you might think.

Taking the entrepreneurship route is as much about personality traits as design, or other skill sets.

Take this University of London test to find out if you are the next Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

I think that it is simply a matter of inexperience. In general, recent grads are no where near ready to go out on their own. Granted, there are a few that can do it, but they seem to be the exception. One thing that you realize quickly when you get into the field is how much more you have to learn. School only lays the foundation for you to build upon. Going out on your own requires a lot more than just a few sketches, a great render, and the design process as a whole.

Anything is possible. But if you go the starting your own business route, figure 5-10% of your time will be spent on design, and 90-95% of your time will be spent on sourcing, distribution, sales, and operations… are you going to design school to end up doing that more than 90% of the time?

Needless to say, it is not for everyone. I’d rather be designing. That is my passion.

I agree with Yo. Running your own shop takes away from design time. However, I think that is where you have to be clever in your partnerships if you are wanting to start your own business. Pair up with someone who wants to be leading the operations, financials etc. so then that frees you up to mainly play the role of the creative.

Pair up with someone who wants to be leading the operations, financials etc. so then that frees you up to mainly play the role of the creative.

Rachel, I’ve been the partnership route, twice, and cant’ think of a better way to spend more time haggling than designing. You name a subject and there is an argu… discussion waiting to happen.

If you don’t know the business, you shouldn’t be going into the business. Relying on others to grow your business seldom works. Why? Few people value your vision as much as you do.

I ran across your posting and had to respond. You have great insight to be asking this question at this time in your life. There are MANY people that will give you reason after reason why you should wait to start a business and keep your focus strictly on I.D. Don’t listen to them!!! Yes you are young, but there is not a better time than right now to start your business!

A few points that were erroniously stated: “Freedom to design…” You will have more design freedom owning your own company than you will ever have under someone elses management. “You Need More Experience…” You will learn faster, and succeed sooner the earlier you start your business. “You will fail if you do it now…” You will fail regardless. Don’t be afraid of failure, in fact embrace failure. The sooner you fail the sooner you can learn from it and the sooner you will succeed. Edison Failed 10,000 times before he came up with a reliable incandecent lightbulb.

You mention that you believe the Industrial Designer is the one that invents and creates the product. You might want to talk to some Industrial Designers that actually work in the exact field you see yourself in. Most people change their major a few times in college because they didn’t realize what the major was preparing them for. Rarely do we end up in the field we think we were going to be in. Read the classified and see how many dream jobs are out there, and what the requirements are for those jobs. Who will get those dream jobs? It won’t be the person with the least amount of experience, will it?

Many people start out in Industrial Design thinking that they will get to design that one cool car that everyone imagines. The truth is, cars are not designed by one designer. Automakers don’t even do much of their own designs as they were back 20 years ago. Now a designer is hired by a tier 2 suppliers, designing a headlight, within a very constrained black box, usually on uninspiring soccer mom style vehicles. Most of your time may be spent trying to get a design that Engineering or Manufacturing will aprove or dealing with fit and finish constraints.

In regards to your schooling, you probably don’t have a good understanding or rather perception yet of what you will need to learn to get what you think you want. It sounds like you might bennefit from taking some Engineering courses outside of I.D. like Materials and Processes, Strength of Materials, Moldmaking/Fabrication etc. if you are serious about wanting to produce a product. I did the opposite where my degree was in Mechanical Engineering, but all my electives were in Industrial Design. Its not the name of the degree that is important, but rather what you can learn and apply to the area or business you want to own or be in.

They say 90% of what you learn in college you will never use, which is probably pretty close to being true. The biggest thing you learn in college is how to conform to common business practices. universities are geared toward supporting corporate manufacturing, not individuals starting thier own business. Therefore, don’t let the university structure what you learn, take ownership of your life and what you learn.

The internet is a great place to learn where to go and how to start your business. You started this the right way by posting your question. Keep asking, keep asking…don’t stop asking questions, always stay positive, never give up until you have what you want.

If you want to invent and produce a product, start with a need (problem) that you don’t currently know of a solution to. Then learn all you can about Design Patents, Utillity Patents, copyrights, etc. thru the US PTO. Do patent searches on what solutions others have come up with. Learn what technologies are out there, how the product was made, and always keep thinking how could I do this better.

Once you have an idea of what it is you want to produce, start a business plan, use FreeMind software to lay out everything you find and can learn. As your knowledge evolves your mindmap (outline) will help you organize your plan.

Don’t be afaird that your idea has already been patented by someone else, or that there is compitition in the sector you have chosen. Believe in yourself and you will find a way to do things better.

You will never get rich working for someone else, as you would working for yourself. So start this today, go to your local Small Business Administration building and they will help you get started.

Do it Today!!!

EXACTLY :sunglasses: I love to design but my passion is CREATING and this is the route that I have taken and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Definitely take a look at the thread “Failed as an Industrial Designer” in the Design Employment section.

Having done exactly as what you say you’re interested in doing, I would highly recommend NOT branching off on your own directly after school. In my experience, the only reason I’ve been remotely successful at being an entrepreneur is because I had developed my skills, connections and general product development knowledge through years of working for someone else.

There is a big difference between being an entrepreneur that has their own design studio versus one that brings their own product to market. Flat out, I just don’t have the talent to be a design principle but I know I have a lot to offer my clients (I consult on the side.) But what I do have is years of experience designing products right alongside the manufacturing floor. That brings you knowledge that you’d never gain in school. Not even close.

Another advantage to waiting for a while after school to do your own thing is that you learn over the years about the business side of product development. What you bring to the table as an experienced ID’er is the ability to save an upstart company tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in development, graphics, production assistance, etc. These are all incredibly valuable to a new company set to bring a product to market. And since you work for free as an entrepreneur, it makes the amount of money needed from outside investors less. And less is always good since that means you get to keep more of your company.

Bringing your own product to market also makes you focus on just about everything BUT designing. That’s just a side-show. I’ve continued to provide design consulting to clients because it keeps my skills sharp, even though they aren’t that great to begin with.

So, in a nutshell, I recommend waiting at least 5 years before attempting to bring your own idea to market. You need the industry experience and connections to pull it off. That’s my educated opinion on the matter.

For the original posted (DXC); the latest three posts parallel my thoughts on the matter.

Dreaming is a great way to start your career, but I would urge you to make a checklist of things to experience (at great length) before starting something of your own.

  1. Be the most business savvy person in your design school courses - I earned a business degree before design school, it helped me observe both sides of the coin.
  2. Find internships with both consultancies and corporate design departments - you will quickly see the difference in pace, breadth of scope and depth of knowledge to be gained.
  3. Enter every single design contest you can find while still a student - it is a great way to put yourself under pressure for creativity, timing and discipline.
  4. Graduate at the top of whatever class surrounds you.
  5. Obtain employment at both a consultancy and a corporate design department - in whichever order you can achieve - and for at least 5-10 years…

THEN, if you’ve found yourself striving for a bigger piece of the pie and want to control your own destiny, start double dipping on the side…once you’re making more on the side than your day-job salary, it’s time to jump ship. There is a common and fanciful idea of how to convert concepts into products and then plop them into the laps of your target customer. The reality of that is about a billion times more intense, requires a billion more hours and a LOT of money - but for some, it’s worth it.

My company is a boutique consultancy with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 corporations and the work we do for every client is equally satisfying - but the most rewarding time we spend is on our own internal projects (we have IP being licensed and are branding and manufacturing products here in the States for consumption in the Middle and Far East)

You CAN do it all, but the experiences leading up to doing your own thing are more important than I could describe.

I’m finishing my degree in a matter of days (I hope to do a Masters in a few years or so) but for the time being after 7 years part-time study I need a break (and more importantly so does my wife and kids).

I’m in the position that I have a well paid job, unrelated to design. I’ll be going back to a graduate wage if I get a design job. Unfortunately where I live there aren’t a huge number of design jobs so I’m looking at the possibility of relocating, moving my kids out of their schools, moving my wife to a new city, no family support network etc. I moved a lot as a kid and I’ve lived and worked overseas so I know what to expect, but with kids it’s a different story.

I want to be a professional designer earning a living so I’ll take the pay cut, but it has to be the right job. So the reality is I’ll probably be staying in my current position until the right job comes along.

My wife and I have been discussing the idea of starting my own business, while still working in my current job. The hours I spend at night studying would be spent on the business, so it’s more than do-able (though hard work). The goal would be to slowly transition from a wage to my own business.

If I do this, how does the first day/ week/ month owning your own business start? How do you go out to get clients and work? Do you advertise? How do people contact you? Is it best to try and bring a small product to market and leverage off that? Where does the cash flow come from?

Maybe this book is of some help for designers who wish to become entrepreuners:

“DesignDirect - how to start your own micro brand” by R. Ball and H. Overhill -

Here is the blog of the book:

Roger is a professor at HK PolyU, nice perosn and great teacher.

My first job out of CCS was designing for GM - the worst and most valuable experience I’ve had as a designer. The headquarters at the time was our campus, the Warren Tech Center where you’d regularly see the Presidents arriving in Ferrarri’s, Porsche’s, Aston’s and ZR1’s while the place was blowing money like a Country that had just found a gold and diamond mine in it’s yard. I designed a door handle for a Pontiac, an exhibit for GM Europe and a design strategy project for brand awareness and development. Meanwhile, I watched LOTS of people walking around doing nothing while I tried to figure out how on earth the company could afford the way they did business (obviously, they couldn’t!! lol).

Anyway, the value of that experience is that I am far more aware of our productivity and my own level of risk-taking and how it could affect our business, good or bad. Oh, and after that experience I decided NOT to have mahogany walled hallways, chrome sculptures, a two story designer library (with every periodical on earth arriving weekly), granite floors and about ten times too many people walking around. :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh, and after that experience I decided NOT to have mahogany walled hallways, chrome sculptures, a two story designer library

My senior year at Purdue, I interviewed with the Dodge truck division. What I recall, most vividly, was that the office of the R&D department’s manager was finished with corrugated cardboard with brown pin stripe accents. “Trucks” were still just trucks in 1973 and soccer moms hadn’t been invented yet so I guess there wasn’t any budget for mahogany.

What yo said.

I’m actually a full-time freelance Industrial Designer, and I’d say that 55-65% of my time is spent designing. The rest is customer calls, meetings, dealing with factories, accounting/taxes, collecting $, etc, etc, etc.

I couldn’t imagine if I were developing and selling my own product under my own brand. Shipping, packaging, marketing, branding, graphic design, writing copy, sales, even more meetings. Heck, I’d guess 1-5% of your time would be designing, the one main thing you’re supposed to be an expert on.

Focus on ID (your expensive degree), then feel it out from there.

If GM’s Design building had been even the slightest bit modest and if there would have been ANY indication that anyone cared or wanted to make their products better in any way I might have stayed longer but none of that existed. It was truly shocking but as I look back on it I understand that they were all living in a sort of candyland where reality didn’t matter. I seem to remember figures like 50 billion dollars of fall back money, 250 million dollars advertising budget - just crazy numbers.

The most telling memory I have of GM before the ‘fall’ was that almost every day I went to the dome, where they took all the promo shots of the clay models and pre-production vehicles, we had a project going on in one of the conference rooms there - you walked in an underground tunnel (not mahogany walled, but close) to get there and every day I passed the same two guys sitting on a black leather & chrome couch at the trailing edge of the tunnel. I never thought much about those guys, other than the fact that they were always drinking coffee and reading a newspaper - and that they were ALWAYS there…until the day I stopped to tie my shoe and said Hi as I sat down. I asked, “Can I ask what you guys do?, I always see you here.” One of them smiled and said, we’re union forklift operators - we move car models back and forth when they need us." I asked, “Cool, how often do they need you” and the response was, “about once a day for 30 minutes or so - other than that we sit here making $72 an hour.” He saw the look on my face and continued, “the best part is that I’m guaranteed 10 hours of overtime every week if I want it.”

Thanks for sharing, looks like a decent read, just read the first chapter and will have to pick it up

I found the brief ebook that Studio Neat put out “It will be Exhilarating” to be a nice quick primer for “indie capitalism”

Nothing ground breaking, but definitely worth the couple hour read and some good tips on different avenues for handling the logistics of drop shipping,manufacturing and sourcing in the USA, handling customer service, etc. all the little things that can consume your life.

Dutch landscape designers Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman of ZUS used crowd funding to build a pedestrian bridge in Rotterdam. They got funding to design a wooden bridge that cuts right through an office block. These two designers simply made some sketches, set up a website and then began selling their bridge idea over the net. Since products/services are given away on Kickstarter (kind of like a form of equity, or in return for a donation you will receive product X), the designers offered to engrave peoples names into the wooden planks to those who donated.

Anyways, if extreme projects like these can be created on Kickstarter then anything can be created and funded. The next time I have an idea, I think I will try to turn to crowdfunding. It is also a great way to guage the future success of a product. :smiley: