Is Industrial Design what I'm looking for?

Here’s my dilemma: I know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m not sure what it’s called. I’m thinking it might be Industrial Design, but I’d like to firm this up before quitting the day job. Also, I apologize for the clumsiness of my language and descriptions here; I’m fumbling for the right way to describe what I’m looking for (and hoping ID provides some of it!).

Got my B.A. in geography, have been working as a graphic designer the past few years.

My skill set:

  • creative problem solving, especially within constraints
  • cross application of knowledge/systems/patterns*
  • quickly understand broad concepts (quick learner in general)
  • good with visualization (and creation) in 2D and 3D
  • strong analytical, research, and writing skills
  • love love love collaboration
  • enjoy making the world a better place and fixing things (objects, systems, concepts) that don’t work as well as they could/should

My ideal job:

  • the process of working that Ideo used in “Objectified” had me bouncing in my seat in joy
  • collaboration with other creative people
  • problem solving for all kinds of issues by rethinking things, researching, reevaluating, and brainstorming
  • project based work with a good degree of variability month to month (a pace that ebbs and flows, rather than is steady)
  • new things to work on and learn about
  • sense of improving the world by making things more efficient/prettier/more accessible/simpler/etc.

So far does this sound like Industrial Design?

What makes me unsure of this being ID is that it doesn’t always includes tangibles. I know there’s interaction design within ID, but how abstract do the solutions of ID get? Would an Industrial Designer look at ways to increase accessibility to and use of Pedialyte in rural areas to prevent death from dehydration? Would they do this at a level of problem solving that may come to a conclusion of education or a simple hack of an existing object rather than a new product? Would they also look at making cell phones less intimidating to the elderly? Or making common tasks more streamlined? Or prettier? Or redundant?

Is ID the field I’m looking for?

If yes, any further ideas of what to pursue? (Schools, programs, key words, companies/organizations, etc.)
If no, why not?

Thank you!

* I’m fascinated by the patterns (both by design and otherwise) involved in epidemiology/public health, urban development, landscape formation (especially quaternary), politics, weather, language acquisition, invasive species, class structure, fashion, maps, literacy/typography, standardization, “Othering”, aquifers/drainage, soil, the notion of the body, food choices, death, sizing, organizational systems, construction of power, the internet, waste management, mental health, trends, symbolism, beauty, universal design, aging, material properties, etiquette, biomedical ethics, the notion of “nature”, structure and agency, etc. ad nauseum

It may depend on whether you see Industrial Design as the end product or as a process. Your description could apply to many disciplines in the design field: Industrial, Interactive, Communications, Environmental, Sustainable, Research, Trends and Strategy… It does seem that your affinity is towards research and trends, so beyond post-grad Design/Research studies your next steps could be towards Business Development in the consulting world with an MBA.

I think ID can partially satisfy your interests, but I wouldn’t put you squarely in that camp. Depending on the organization, ID can be a very narrowly defined set of tasks - think about sketching endless style variations of relatively defined products, or designing parts - very far downstream from much of the analytical work and framing of critical problems. It can be very broad like your definition too, but in that case I think the word “designer” has potential to be a liability. No disrespect in that comment, but I think the word carries a lot of arty-farty baggage with it that because of other peoples’ perceptions (not the actual definition of the word) diminishes the role or credibility of the “designer” in many ways, and often places the designer in a box that can be difficult to escape from. So 51’s comment about process versus product comment is certainly valid, but I would also try to figure out where you want to have impact in the product development cycle. For similar reasons, I’ve been wrestling with the MBA question too. I think an MBA can open a lot of doors, or at the very least put you in contact with business leaders (read: decision makers), and teach you how a lot about how they think about the world, and therefore how to communicate the value design and design thinking can bring to business problems. I’m pretty sure I didn’t answer your question completely, so you should try contacting the people at IDEO directly if what you saw in Objectified looked like The Thing to you.

look into the Koln International School of Design, in Cologne, Germany. Most of the classes are supposedly taught in English.

Their program is called “Integrated Design”, which means that they have a variety of different design projects and fields. They’re also strong in “service design” and “design thinking”, which to me sounds like what you’re interested in.

Note that I don’t attend KISD, but am strongly considering enrolling. - info on the program - scroll to bottom for a list of their past course offerings