Industrial Design or Architecture

So I’m changing careers and trying to decide what master’s program to pursue: industrial design or architecture/interior designer. I just can’t decide between the 2, though. They both are fields that pique my interest and creativity and I figure the day-to-day work environment are pretty much the same…

What questions should I be asking myself when deciding which career I want to pursue? <<

As a rule of thumb, if you want to make new things, industrial design. If you want to rearrange existing things, interior design.

That said, there are a few select companies that do both, 555 Fabrication being one.

As for the day-to-day environment being pretty much the same … Incorrect.

If you plan on staying with your choice throughout your entire career you need to consider the following environments. Architects realize their work at the building job site whereas Industrial Designers realize their work in a mass production facility or factory. Which environment do you see yourself thriving in?

Architecture as a sub-discipline of Design is currently undergoing the most tumult at the moment…

First ask yourself what your main objective and motivation is. Do you want something new, or are you truly motivated to be an architect or designer. Each in their own right are great fields to work in and definitely different from each other but after a decade, it is mostly about keeping the work running vs. the excitement of newness. So look carefully at long-term prospects as well. Ignore interior design as an academic study - you can always focus on this in each of the other ones as well.

Architecture as a sub-discipline of Design

an architect or designer

Seriously guys, since when was Architecture not design?

SN7 I think you should canvass a broader opinion base than Core forums. I was once was at the same career fork in the road when an award winning British architect told me “it’s all design”. Perhaps ID confines you to objects, while architecture is about environments, but both require Design skills, sensibilities and values.

What research have you done so far?

What do you see the most interesting of each careers?

I would tend to say that industrial designers have to be more entrepreneurial, although there is space for entrepreneurs in any career. Talking to small architecture firms, the client relationship is more one-on-one. There is a lot of that in ID too, but there are also corporate teams to relate to. Speaking for myself, I’ve encountered many different types of challenges in my career, where an architect is going to work within building codes and well-understood building techniques most of the time. It’s a different type of creativity.

Interior Design & Architecture are also very different fields, both require different degrees. CSU Long Beach offers both Interior Design and Industrial Design degrees so you may want to contact them to get a better feel for their programs. I would say start visiting schools and find out the portfolio reviews so you can get a feel for the type of work produced.

Some Interior Design friends have the following jobs:

  1. Hospitality - hotels, bars, restaurants, lounges, etc.
  2. High Density Housing - This segment is growing a lot
  3. Restaurant Design - Restaurants became her specialty and now has a consultancy
  4. Home remodels - He had a lot of years of experience working for an architect so now his niche is high end home remodels. Working to get his architecture degree.

If you also like ID, then exhibit design may be a good combination. Exhibits, trade shows, store displays etc.

Would you like to work for a consultancy - broad spectrum of projects?
Would you like to work for a large firm - probably specialized in one area?
Have you researched salaries?
What companies excite you?

Good luck.

That’s true. I never saw it that way: that despite both utilizing design skills, the 2 are very different, with very different goals. I definitely need to do more research. What interests me about product design is that it’s design combined with strategic thinking and problem-solving.

One thing I do know is I am NOT willing to travel often for work and must be able to telecommute and have work-life balance for family. That’s where I get stuck when choosing between the two. What’s the daily life feel like? The nature of the work environment? I am not the type who enjoys making my work my life or the kind who makes a home out of where I work nor do I enjoy being a part of the daily grind/ fast-paced business life.

“…edited 7 times in total.” Really computer? Thanks for telling everyone.

Agreed. All good points.

And thanks everyone for your posts! Each one has helped given me insight.

This will be hard no matter which you choose. Architects often require 2-3 years experience before they get their license and it can be intense. Designers have to hustle for their first job or two to build up our portfolios and get the hands-on knowledge required. Be prepared to put in 4 years at school +3 years of possibly >40 hour weeks. It’s always possible you get lucky, but be aware you may have compromise on the work / life balance.

I’ll keep that in mind, thanks!

You may have to step back and evaluate if a career in creative services is the right fit for you. A degree gets you the bare minimum to get in the door somewhere typically. The first couple of years is where the real education happens, and that often requires long hours of work, critique by superiors, and rework to learn professional methods and standards. I’m not trying to scare you, but that above statement would be an instant end of interview for many places that hire architects and industrial designers. Many people who do this really love it, and you will be competing for jobs with people who will put in the work. I’ve seen a few people with this outlook make it into the field on pure talent/skill/ability (IE they were white hot awesome at sketching, CAD modeling, presenting…) and then never really progress beyond entry level roles as they get out lapped by those who continue to work on their professional development.

The reality of Industrial Design jobs is that there are not many out there and you have candidates worldwide applying to them. So being picky from the beginning (or even before you start) is not a luxury many recent grads have.
Telecommuting is also not a common thing and it will depend on the company.
Travel is often necessary in ID. At some point you will be dealing with clients/factories/trade shows nation & worldwide.

You need at least 5 years of being flexible with your career options/locations/workload to get a good professional foundation. After that you can be more selective.

Or maybe you can get a degree/certificate/training on being a draftsman/3d modeler for an architectural firm or id firm. This job will be less demanding in terms of traveling but will also limit your career growth.

What’s your current career and why do you want to switch?

The biggest note I can make is that both fields are highly competitive. I’ve often heard architects joke that they only plan on making as much as the folks doing the roofing after 5 years on the job. One thing you haven’t mentioned is your bachelor degree. Other than if you were in a very related field would I think you stand a chance at getting a job after you complete only 2 years of school when everyone applying for the jobs will have a minimum of 4 years of relevant experience. As Michael mentioned, some folks are extremely motivated by their fields and will be ready to put in a lot of effort in their first few years out of school to get to the level they want to be.

Hopefully these are a few things I could add that may sway you one way or another. In no particular order:

  • -Architecture tends to have a more academic slant than ID. Almost half of students have a Masters degree where as very few ID students get a Masters degree. This can be interesting as there is a lot background research happening around buildings and it also opens up some very unique positions that architects take on that go outside of coming up with and idea and executing a building. I think ID can comparatively lack depth.
  • -As you probably know, architects need a license to perform some of their duties. For that reason, junior architects can often get taken advantage of. (Unpaid internships, unreasonable expectation of work/life balance)
  • -I think as industries, Architecture is currently in a very interesting spot as there is a lot of changes happening. For one, the technical tools are changing and the AEC industry is finally embracing 3D CAD for one. That’s on top of other aspects that are rapidly changing.
  • -Architecture is much more prone to market fluctuations. When there’s economic instability, the construction industry usually gets hit very hard.
  • -There are ID jobs only in certain cities. On the flip side there are architecture firms in basically every city. (They may not do work you like or at the scale you like, but they exist)
  • -The blow off valve for ID seems to be UX/UI design. For architecture, I’m not sure where you could land if things don’t pan out.

I think you’ll get the clearest idea by getting in contact with some local industrial designers and architects and having coffee or a tour of their studios.

I saw a job posting for an architect intern in my area that’s remote based- what a coincidence.
In terms of work pace, I’m really glad I asked. This is all great to know! Thank you for your inputs.

Things are changing. Most of my contractors prefer to work remotely, even the local ones. So maybe there will be more opportunities for this. I think most full time designers put in some pretty long hours right out of school though. I also think putting in the time and working in a group in person are some of the most sure ways to see fast improvement in your abilities.

An alternate route - if you like architecture, you don’t like to travel, and you want to work remotely - would be to specialize in architectural visualization. It would be a different educational path than your current plan, but may give you more control regarding work/life flexibility.