industrial design or architecture


I am a freshman in architecture and so far I love my first year. We’re learning about design, not really anything related to buildings yet. I am considering, however, switching over to industrial design. I had originally selected architecture b/c being in a top 3 school, it would be easier to switch from arch to another major rather than vice versa. In the future I see myself as a designer of everything- from buildings to products to furniture- in a firm like Starck. I am just wondering if anyone has advice on whether or not I should stick in the arch program or switch. For what reasons are you happy you choose industrial design rather than architecture and vice versa? Thank you so much for helping me with this decision.

Sorry to pop your baloon, but if you have to ask these questions about “switching” back and forth, you should probably switch out of any design-related field altogether.

You sound like someone strictly after a degree, no more. You won’t survive either Architecture or ID without passion.

No- design is my passion- that’s all i want to do. However, I want to be able to design everything as a professional- not just buildings, not just products. Would it be easy for me to find a job designing a wide variety of things with an architecture degree? I’ve already asked my studio profressors, and I can’t double major.


One thing you need to keep in mind is that architects need to be certified in order to practice with a license. You can gain this certification without a degree in architecture or architectual engineering but it takes several additional years as an intern before you are elligible to take the certification exam. For example, with a degree in arch you only need to intern for approxiamtely two years before you can take the exam. Without the degree you need to intern for six years before you are eligible. This varies slightly from state to state, but that is the general rule.

Why is this important, because you do not need to be certified to be an industrial designer.

I offer this up because it would be to your advantage to pursue a degree in architecture to keep you options open. I am not sure what arch program you are in, but when I went through my architectural training, I had several oportunites to design furniture and even some housewares. While I was taking arch classes, I also took several classes in metalsmithing and jewelry design and several classes in industrial design. It was not at the same depth that a pure I.D. student would experience, but I was able to expand my portfolio with enough diversity to land an I.D. position after graduation. I still have the option of working at an architecture firm and possibly even getting certified as an architect. I may never get certified, but it is always an option, something I think about quite a bit.

This is just one view point, but it seemed as though the I.D. professors I met were more open to working with and teaching an arch student than a arch professor to help out an I.D. or fine art student. Those architecture professors can be real bastards. If you are only a freshman, get ready, it starts to get really challenging.

Anyway, I hope this little perspective helped.

great advice- do you mind me asking what type of work you are currently involved in?

My primary job is at a small industrial design consultancy where we work on projects ranging from household consumer electronics to home security devices, and ocassionaly get caught up in some furniture design.

I have been receiving a few freelance oportunites to design interior spaces. Recently finished work on a small office that houses 10-15 employees. This work envolved spec’ing interior finishes, furniture and redesigning the general flow of the office. I have just recently quoted on the interior design of a contemporary restaurant that will be constructed in the Midwest. We’ll see where it goes.

I would like to further comment that I am not saying that you should not pursue a degree in Industrial Design. If you feel that I.D. is where your passion lies, then by all means go for it. If you continue with the architecture department and take I.D. classes as a minor, you will not get the same level of education if you were to major in I.D. I hope that you investigate both fields further and get more opinions from your current professors prospective professors and other professionals.

Architects make for very superficial, and often downright atrocious industrial designers, if you take the word “industrial” for what it is. If you consider fruit bowls, teapots and furniture the apex of the industrial design profession, go for your architecture degree, after which - as Architorture points out - you can do some lightweight cosmetic product design here and there (tremendous competition), but you’re unlikely to ever be capable of any in-depth cooperation on complex projects with other industry professionals, like mechanical engineers or manufacturers for instance.

It all depends on how you see “design” but I personally resent the typical arrogance of some architects or engineers considering ID their natural turf because “it requires no license”. A lot of professions out there require no legal license to practice, yet you cannot go around claiming to be what you are not for any length of time without others realizing what a fraud you are. ID is not a free-membership club and it DOES take some inborn skills that cannot be taught.

Your premise of “designing everything” strikes me as very naive, especially when throwing together houses and mass-produced industrial goods. Architecture requires thinking on a different scale and has another concept of space and of physical interactions than product design, while subscribing to many practical constraints radically different from those faced by product designers everyday.

You cannot be all things to all people, but it’s your right to dream you can. Industrial design is in itself the architecture of manufactured products. Before ploughing ahead any further I suggest you talk with practising professionals on both sides of the great divide and decide for yourself whether trained architects normally become industrial designers with a genuine empathy for individuals’ needs and capable of pushing the boundaries of the profession. Is Michael Graves an industrial designer or another styling opportunist in a long list of big-name designer wannabes (some Hollywood types are designers too) unable to pass an easy dollar?

Apart very few historic examples from the recent past, an architect’s ego usually largely surpasses any transferable practical skills they may have. They just like to think the earth would stop turning without them, but most of us IDers know too well it wouldn’t.

I have to agree with guest. Architorture is an exception, ID people work in Arch offices much more often than the opposite. If you want to keep your options open go into ID.

Certification is moot, ID is vastly too complex to ever have standardised testing (imagine the same test for running shoes, cars and endoscopic instruments - ludicrus!). Besides only 2% of homes and 8% of the rest of new construction use architects with a growing trend of un-licenced practicioners putting up buildings…

Stark is not the ideal for industrial design - if you’ve sat in his chairs you know he has no concept of human factors, just great styling. What are you really serious about: beauty? benefit? innovation? or cool stuff?

What are your thoughts on an undergrad degree in architecture and masters in id? I plan on talking to more ppl in the profession, but right now I’m leaning on the side of staying in the arch program and taking as many industrial design courses as possible to broaden my portfolio.

my opinion go for both - either a 5yr barch and an ma in id or a 4yr Id bfa and a March. don’t listen to the bullshit posters on here…I can’t understand how someone could think that gaining diverse experience will make you a worse designer…don’t let these people discourage your curiousity and enthusiasm…try doing everything and anything that interests you and you will find the direction you are looking for, good luck