Industrial Designers being turned to CAD designers

Maybe no one else has experienced this, but it has happened to me. I work at a consultancy and am an industrial designer, but i also do A LOT of CAD work, and not easy peasy stuff like blocks, really hard surfacing stuff. I’m beginning to think that this is the norm in consultancies, and maybe becoming the norm elsewhere. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m beginning to think that IDer’s who don’t do lots of CAD are becoming the exception (with so many desperate IDer’s people are getting the idea that they can also use them instead of hiring CAD designers).

I’ve actually started looking real hard lately at leaving the field because the CAD stuff makes me want to kill myself, and I don’t know if the job where CAD isn’t 60% of what you do is out there (if it is it is going to the guys who were born with the ability to sketch beautifully - dont get me wrong, I can sketch, but there’s some things you can only get so good at - the rest is genetics). I will add that I’ve been in the field 8 years, at several different places, and I am an awesome designer (not the hack you knew in school who sucked and had to become a CAD jockey).

My theory is this - in the coming years with all these new graduates coming out of all these new schools the industrial design degree will become the equivalent of the 2 year CAD design degree.

While I agree CAD is increasingly a part of the toolset, I think the tool will become easier to use. It won’t always be a pain. Unfortunately we’re still in transition. If you have those skills and you’re a competent designer, you definitely have an advantage. Anyone can learn to use a tool. Using it to create something worthwhile is another matter. Leverage that at your job.

I personally love being responsible for the cad for my own designs…doing cad on a project which you have no design influence is a drag, but when you actually did design on a project, handing off CAD responsibitly to someone else is scary…

Allow me to refer you to an earlier post. It long, but worth the read.

I was recently turned down from a real big name corp. because I couldn’t
do CAD like a cad designer.

The fact,
that I could sketch, come up with ideas, and do some presentable
photoshop work and 3d work did not matter.
that not only I had those skills but I had similar designes that the company was going to release as the new product line for next year 1st quarter didn’t matter. ( when I found out that I had similar designes, I thought I hit the bull’s eye. I had no doubt that they were gonna hire me.)

The only thing that the manager cared was " my 3D modeling skills"
Why not just hire a cad person, then?
I felt insulted during interview.
If being able to come up with designes that the corp. must have invested time and money ON MY OWN wasn’t enough to get a job, then what do you need? ( and that company is supposed to be like #1 in its field… I can’t believe that they value more on cad than on ideas. I mean it is NOT like
they couldn’t afford to hire BOTH a cad designer and an industrial designer !!!)

Well, no matter what, the SADDEST part of my story is that now I am
practing CAD so that I can get a job… how depressing…

so that I can get a job as a CAD MONKEY.

I see this discussion from a different persepective. I spent 20 years sketching and rendering concepts - then starting over in AutoCAD doing the first generation of 2-D control drawings for prototypes and to hand-off to the engineering guys.

Then I decided 5 years ago that 3-D was the wave of the future and it was time to teach an old dog some new tricks. Holy crap - what a time saver!! The photorendered stuff is MUCH better than my renderings and I can deliver a set of control (semi-finished) engineering drawings in a fraction of the time.

I don’t consider myself a CAD jockey, I consider the CAD stuff a replacement for smelly markers and smudged color pencils. The engineering drawings are gravy because they come for free if you generated a decent 3-D model.

No complaining here. I consider it liberating to “sketch” in 3-D. And don’t get me started on animated fly-arounds of concepts. The customers love that stuff!! You need to experienece the “old days” to have a healthy respect for what 3-D has done for our profession.

I haven’t done a marker rendering in over a year. Just sketches, PS work and 3D. I’m happy.

To the original poster: unfortunately, this is true. More ID employers, consulting and especially corporate, place an increasingly high premium on CAD skills. This seems absurd to us, trained at generating ideas and solving product problems, until you realize that industrial designers have gradually replaced the draftsmen (and women) of yesteryear. Engineers are too close to the Holy Grail to touch CAD after a few years out of school, so who is left to man the machines, do you think?

Many companies balk at hiring separate “CAD Operators” since to them this cannot possibly constitute a full-time responsibility. The real reason is simply to get a bargain employee, or in this case a “designer-draftsman” as many job postings announce. This is in line with “mechanical designer” positions that are often code for a strange “mechanical engineer / industrial designer” combo. Whether finally filled by an ME, ID or technician, the purpose remains the same. Why pay two salaries when you can only pay one, especially if there’s not enough full-time work for either.

Who knows what other hybrid job titles they will concoct in the future. To put things in perspective here, designers have always done at least some CAD work and especially their own. The question is, are you doing the CAD for other people’s designs? For the Eng department?

If you consider yourself a talented creative designer and your main saleable skill after 8 years (!) is CAD, maybe it’s time to review your personal marketing strategy and understand why you only attract this particular type of jobs. My feel is, it has more to do with how you position, present and sell yourself to design employers. There’s no doubt CAD should be among your skills but if the firm doesn’t make clear to you they need you primarily for creating value, walk away. You have to ask such questions. A career, like a business, is the sum of choices made - that includes opportunities both taken AND refused.

I agree. Its very gratifying to be able to take the concept from sketch to a tangible CAD model. If you are in the driver’s seat, YOU control the final outcome in keeping your design intent intact.

As far as runners for two-shot, intricate ribs, etc…I’ll leave that to the CAD jockey :slight_smile:

as many have said there is often a benefit to doing your own CAD work.

and for many of you that have never done your own CAD work, you might be very surprised how many decisions are being made for you.

i guess this argument goes back to the days of the designer and the clay modeler a bit. …anyone a little longer in the tooth think this has any merit?comments?


This is happening in a consultancy? Who are you doing CAD for??
In my experience, we only do CAD at the end of each project as a final deliverable, but only after hours of brainstorming, ideation, rendering, control drawings and sketch models. CAD is only PART of the process, and we aren’t finding ourselves doing it day in and day out…maybe this is the exception, who knows. But in a consultancy, it seems if you are only doing cad either you or another designer put the last nail in the coffin by ditching all the rest of the tools and skill sets designers should possess…

Alright, here’s the deal, I am the original poster -

I did not get the job I have now because I had great CAD skills, they were horible (worth noting!!), I was offered the job with “the string” attached that I would be taking MY designs to a tool ready level. I had nothing else on the table so I said “sure”. I got the job because I had good sketching, good ideas, lots of experience, blah blah blah.

Then when I started the job I started getting projects that I didn’t design, they bring sketches to me and say “put this into CAD”, it’s bad enough it isn’t your design, but these models are nightmares - maybe it’s the fact I don’t have the temperment for it, I get sooo pissed at solidworks because there’s no f’ing logic to why something will work and won’t work - you spend 8-10 hours a day arguing with a stupid computer program.

I understand the economics - In my opinion, at many companies there is not enough industrial design to keep a designer busy all day, so they say - lets have them do the CAD too, and fire the CAD designer (by the way CAD designers never have any trouble finding jobs because no one wants to be one) - there is a shortage of CAD designers out there and a surplus of Industrial Designers - it’s logical to do what is currently happening - in fact if I was a business owner I couldn’t argue with the arrangement -

And the thing is, if I were reading my post I would say to me “look for another job”, which I’ve been doing, but when I talk to other places and say I’m looking to move because of the amount of CAD (60%), they give me the “we’ll call you”. At this point I’m thinking that the ID field of 10 years ago has changed to one where the Industrial/CAD designer (replacing the traditional CAD designer) is the norm.

Akward position isnt it? I have designed tool ready parts in the past. Many CAD packages are now very capable of easy surface creation. Some things I have noticed. It is very satisfying to see a part taken into tooling- it kinda means that you have taken care of all the isses that need to be taken care of from design to draft safe surfaces.

The more that you do that kind of thing though the more it becomes expected. It is nice to have that kind of knowledge when you are working as a one man shop or doing a project for clients with a lean budget.
However the more senior you become the less you have to do this kind of thing.

I think that a lot of companies realised that there was a gap between a sketch/rendering and the final 3d model.
A lot of it was due to the software limitations, interpretation and so on.
Also having to adress the ‘designer’, the ‘cad technician’ spends (read wastes) a lot of time. Wastes even more time if a curve of a surface was critical in the vision of the designer but not understood well by the cad paerson through the visual media (sketch, photoshop, 3dmax) and has to be re-done again.
What it boils down to, what most companies are after, is not the next S+arc but rather a Mcguiver, who can fix problems as they come, therefore limiting the time for internal communications and minimizing errors due to miscommunication.

My 2 cents.

cad right now is going from a tool to some type of weapon. anyone can use a fist even a jr high student but not many people know how to coordinate in a fight; ie throw a good kick. it’s like when you’re walking and you see five guys walking towards you and say, ok, if these guys attack which one will i take first and where do i hit. you have to figure out the strategy immediately; your movement, angle, rotation, balance, even falling. it’s not that easy.

designers who think they can get away with it doing sketching in today’s high end oriented fast moving environment are sort of like romantics who dream of older days. ok, if you have a rich supporting dad, uncle, etc you can do it, but standing on your own two feet no one’s gonna hire you a personal body gaurd and driver. infact chances are it’s either a tough fight or just stay home watch prank DVDs!

i know there’re always a number of job postings in job sites asking for cad designers but that’s just because these companies use cad as a tool for manufacturing and data management - nothing more.

2 year cad operators are like those guys who write english essays for $50. a company who wants professional original work is not gonna invest on it unless they have too much money to burn or they persue that particular goal/standard.

^my post
i’ll add this too:
if you have original ideas and think you can hire a 2yr cad operator to do your design go for it, but you’ll loose to the guy who uses college degree designers for both design and cad combo in senior management.

hmm…i think it’s time for those who think they can just sketch all-day to have a reality check and take a good look at the industry: it has evolved a fair bit in recent years…consultancies seek grads who can practically do anything…I’ve got very strong concept/sketching skills, strong mechanical/electrical/scientific aptitude, taught myself self 5 CAD programs (parametric and surfacing), 3DS MAX, photoshop, illustrator and freaking enough Flash to almost work as a web designer, not to mention model making skills, welding and workshop skills as well as working on my business management elements…and i reckon i was fairly lucky to get a consultancy gig fresh out of university…point is that if you can’t be flexible/ambitious enough to be awesome at everything then you’ll lose out to those who are talented AND willing to put in the effort…

Here’s my story for what it’s worth:

I got my first job in large part because I had killer Alias skills right out of college (this was about 11 years ago, Alias version 4.) This was only about a year after I’d seen my first photorealistic product rendering in “Design World” magazine.

Those same skills helped me get my second job at a larger firm but I soon saw danger as the “can you put this into cad” requests started coming in. This was the result of the larger, more mature heirarchy which included design directors–a marked contrast from the renaissance culture of the smaller consultancy.

At this exact moment, I was seriously tempted by the emerging market in Hollywood FX. Jim Cameron’s “Digital Domain” was the first to lure Alias jockeys in a big way under a Pirate flag in Venice–what’s not to love?

Instead, I did the opposite–I sought out projects in the office that didn’t involve any CAID at all–Interaction design projects and early conceptual design stuff. I taught other designers how to pump CAD. I was going back to the basics.

I don’t regret this. I haven’t touched Alias since because today I’m busy researching, analyzing, conceptualizing, strategizing, and managing designers and design projects. I’ve never felt more useful or respected as a designer. People could care less about the tools I use–they care about what I offer and ultimately the results.


I agree that CAd helps get you through the door, however to the others.

In my last two firms (one small one top 10) CAD only consisted of 5-10% of total work. Ussually just to get the master external envelope for engineres to take make parts from. The majority was observing research sesions, and sketching. Most clients still only want us to provide detailed sketches and control drawings, then they have their ISO 900/9001 certified engineering firms do the true CAD.

One again we have the “sketching no longer required thread” Thanks UFO I knew I could count on you!