Leaving Industrial Design

I’ve worked as an Industrial Designer for six years and it’s time to leave in the traditional sense. Taken some time off “funenjoyment” and have come to the conclusion that I no longer want to push around a mouse, to be honest drawing /sketching is not appealing anymore either. I’ve always enjoyed model making but it’s been part of the creative process. I don’t know how fun it would be to actually build from drawings and other peoples designs. Is there any demand for designers that create through models and rough sketches? Seems like rapid prototypes is the norm nowadays.

Basically looking for more of a hands on, not in office opportunity. Craftsmen, furniture and high end trim carpentry even seams more appealing to me. Any insight on what I’m getting at for employment? Just looking for a little brainstorming help from this strange thing we call the internet.


Book you may want to read-- “A Whole New Mind”, by Daniel Pink.

You’ll have to wade through the business-speak, but the book talks about the upcoming need for people who can think and act conceptually.

The ID model that we use in the US isn’t the only one, and you aren’t the only one burnt out.

Wow, your thinking is very similar to how i am thinking right now. I quit my job bored as ever. I enjoy only combining computer, sketching AND model making ect. What is most frustrating to me is how employers are “either, or” in their thinking that design is EITHER, hand sketching, model making, rendering, 3D ect… not a combination. Everything has become so linear and compartmentalized. Bouncing back and fourth between skills is so fun.

Losing these skills could be rather ironic for the ID profession. Design got the US out of the depression…maybe, in the future, when these skills are completely lost, the ID profession will put us into a depression…just a thought.

yea… thats what happens when you turn 50

try 33 :open_mouth:

I am 35 and in the past 3 years of designing have been really burning out on the ‘9-5’ work days. I am currently a Sr Design manager and have been doing the ‘9-5’ for about 11 years.

Besides freelancing (which I would like to avoid due to the self hibernation at my desk and pc) what else is avail? Start a firm? Teach? Who knows… Just adding my 2 cents to the discussion.

how about bringing a personal project to market?

starting a compnay doesnt only mean starting a firm with design services.

start with a small gadget. get it manufactured, try licensing it or bring it out on your own.

F 9-5…

more like 8-midnight if you start your own company

Hey Zero,

A friend of mine actually did ID to refine his skills in another field that doesn’t seem so unrelated. He was doing SET DESIGN for a few dance/theatre companies. The way he described the job was that he was able to exercise his creative side via “dressing” the sets, his systems side by figuring out how to make huge pieces of art move on/off and assemble/disassemble in under a few minutes, or less, and great feedback. Just listen to the audience and cast.

He was also involved with the lighting aspects, manufacture (whether hands on or managing a few shops) and sometimes the graphics. (He had a gift when it came to sketching.)

All in all it didn’t sound half bad. Perhaps this might be an avenue.


Well if you’re going to get out of the game, get all the way out; after almost thirty years in ID I’d had enough.

About a year ago I apprenticed myself to the Operating Engineers Local 12.
Talk about a humbling, 180 degree career change. Bottom of the skills ladder, go to class two weekends a month, but I get to be outdoors, I’m running some big machines, building stuff and, most importantly, having some fun.

No more pounding my head on the desk because my client “thinks it should be a little smaller, or bigger, or…”

Now if I can just kick this core77 thing…


Whats funny is that I was considering posting a thread with the exact same title. I’ve only been doing ID for a few years now and Ive been lucky to have a job that lets me do an extremely wide range of work. But it seems like no matter what I’ve tried to do I am constantly frustrated.

Lately the market has become so crazy for my employer that the leads have died off to almost nothing. When I started here the phones were ringing off the hook but now its almost silent and it isn’t like people have given up. On the contrary the sales group has been pursuing people like crazy. It seems like almost all of our traditional clients are either out of business, near out of business, scared sh*tless, or have downsized and outsourced like mad to keep going. I’m getting nervous cause I never know if I’m going to get a paycheck let alone one that will clear.

Whats really frustrating is that none of our clients can afford the design process so we are forced to come up with something and push it out as fast and cheap as possible. That means that instead of being a designer I have been forced into a draftsman position where I just take a sketch from the creative director or president, draft it / model it, and thats it. Its so mindless. Forget ideation, sketching, prototypes, out clients can’t afford it and won’t pay for it anymore.

This has all led me to make the decision to get out of ID and go to doing freelance on the side. I’m probably going to go back to grad school to pursue something for the “new economy”. I’ve also considered going to culinary school to become a chef. At least there I can use my creative skills in preparing dishes and adding value to the dining experience. Plus people will always need to eat so thats a pretty safe bet.

Wish I could stick with ID but this is killing me.

Question to you all? Is it that design that you have done seems to have a lack of purpose?


…if it lacks purpose then it definately isn’t design that your getting out of…maybe you should try getting back into the game you left sometime ago…

I don’t think the work I’ve been doing lacks purpose but it definately lacks something. As things have become more frantic in my office the drive to get things out the door has resulted in a real loss of quality. Personally I have issues knowing that the things that I am creating are going to end up in a land fill in six months.

And the tension is definately in the air. Several designers have walked out / quit and I really don’t blame them. I’m looking to do the same as soon as I can. Right now there are still several graphic designers in my department but I’m the only person in ID. Now I’m investing in new hardware so that I can go freelance, take other jobs, and start preparing for grad school. I’ve never been great at sketching so I can’t compete with the pools of talent that are building up as we speak. I’ve always had more of an engineering / technical focus in my work and right now those jobs are evaporating or have changed to the point that I would need additional training to get them.

The only thing that I really have on my side right now is that I’ve been working for small companies that give me exposure to an extremely large range of projects. I hate being a swiss army knife of design but right now thats attractive to some offices that need someone to jump between graphics, industrial, interactive, and other areas.

I can certainly relate to that… I’m just waiting for them to ask me to go out on sales calls…

Yeah lately I have been feeling burnt out and frustrated too. Sketching is no longer as fun as it was before and CAD is boring as heck. I guess when they just want you to do meaningless boxes and bezels all day it gets stale.

Man, after reading this I am thouroughly convinced design in the US is going to be just like China products are in China. Pointless. There are so many of you agreeing on this post, that my choice to get out of design was an instinct that is proving to have some credibility. Thanks guys for speaking your mind.

I remember a few years back when I asked a friend who taught English for several years in China said about the product there. His instant, gut, unbiased, honest answer was that it was all pointles crap. He didn’t even know what the profession of design was and this was simply his observation. US design has simply become Chinese design. I guess thats what happens when the decision to speed up production and drive down costs was made by shortsighted design directors. Pointless product.

Anybody want to start a company called “pointless design” Im sure it would do well in a parody sort of way. hahaha

My boss is asking me for leads for design gigs. If I had leads I wouldn’t be working for him hahahaha!

I think you have hit on few things here. Design cycles have hit a new pace and margins have been shaved (on somethings products not all).

What hasn’t happened is studios adapting. The “design process” needs to match these expectations as they change. Some studio do it better than others. Some freelancers do it much better, cheaper, faster, etc.

As for companies not being able to afford it. I actually think that most companies not only see the benefits of ID (now more than ever) but they are actively bringing ID inhouse. An integrated ID (or team) is generally more effective than an outside house at understanding the companies needs and style (just commonsense). Also, the designer(s) are focused solely on the company, are cheaper to retain and the process is streamlined.

From the designer standpoint, this may not make for huge variety products-wise but the benefits are generally, better resources, more control (until marketing gets a hold), and job security.

Perhaps traditional studios will be a thing of the past but ID is not going away. It is just about to become really embedded. ID just seems to be hitting stride.

you know, if you think about it “industrial design” was probably looked down upon when it was conceived…

what had been a slow-moving, hand-crafted, quality-minded, world started to be inundated with “mass produced” articles.

all of a sudden more people could afford a toaster, so more people wanted a toaster. what follows? cheaper toasters… cheaper furniture

"american’ design vs cheaper “chinese” design

these are poor analogies… can anyone elaborate?