Hi all, I have been lurking these forums the last few months, and first I’d like to thank everyone who contributes to these forums as they have been a terrific resource for me. I, like so many other posters on this forum, find myself wanting to switch careers to Industrial Design, or something closely related.
From what I’ve seen, the general consensus is that the best way to get your skills up is to go through a bachelors program, because the masters programs focus more on design theory and exploration. Unfortunately, I can’t afford the sticker price for a private university like Art Center, and the state schools in California strictly do not accept students for a second bachelors degree. I’ve generally heard that masters can be cheaper if you get a TA position or research of some kind, but I don’t want to miss out on the foundational skills. Additionally, I’m not sure I would be accepted to a good masters program, even one with a post-bacc catch up year without a good portfolio and right now I have nothing.
I contacted CSULB, and found out they have something called an Open University program, where you essentially enroll in classes with the Professor’s permission but without working towards a degree. I am considering trying to do this for the first year/ maybe two years of undergrad classes to get my practical skills up, maybe try some night classes at Art Center, and then try to use the portfolio from that to get in to a masters program where I can pay less and refine my design thinking.
Any input on this plan would be greatly appreciated, or if you know of an alternative way to get the skills required without paying an arm and a leg, please let me know.
If you already have a bachelor and familiar with team-based projects working towards concrete deliverables, the step towards an ID job will be much smaller than if you started from scratch. The main thing about product designers is that they deliver production plans, and on the way have to impress clients and prove that the concept will work from a business, technical, aesthetic and human-centered viewpoint. So of course you can do your own research to develop yourself. However if you have a great university environment and actual clients that will greatly help. So if you can enroll into the open classes that is wonderful. Keep an eye on local design-related events too and if you post work to these forums you have a chance to get very valuable feedback from top designers. An alternative route for a low budget is to start your career in related fields like graphic or interior design, for which you can enroll in courses from private companies, at least in Europe you can.
For something related to ID, you can also choose to specialize and that will not be an unwise career move in this time where many traditional processes are shifting to a digital economy. For example there are courses on Coursera that will help you well on your way. To complement my ID background, I have always been involved with programming and now have shifted focus to 3D printing combined with generative design to produce otherwise impossible geometries. There is more and more demand for these specialties. Other great fields are robot programming and AI. You will not so much become a fixed team member overseeing product development processes and production lines but an expert/consultant on hire with deep knowledge and skills.
Thank you for your input! Funny you should mention robotics programming, I actually have a Computer Science degree and work as a software developer right now, and I have considered robotics as a way to explore a new area while leveraging my existing skill set. And I think you are definitely right about specializing and finding your niche, that has certainly proved to be true in my current field and I would imagine it would be similar in design.
The great thing about an education is, besides the degree, the team-based environment encouraging you to put in those 40 hours, critical feedback and fuel for your design cycles during presentation sessions and the conversations you have with experts and your target users. If you think you can fill that in with a private study I think it can work as well. For one, more and more schools such as MIT have started this year to publish their course materials online, for free under the OpenCourseWare Consortium. The MIT classes alone will get you a long way, they include everything from materials science, manufacturing knowledge, design projects, furniture, new product development and research processes, CAD (Solidworks), rapid prototyping, sculpture, toy design and sustainability. Then there are the classes on electronic textiles by Leah Buechley, Neri Oxman for biomimetics and Roz Picard for affective computing.
40 hours? Your profs were easy on you, Ralph!
Yeah! Well I mean core design hours. We did have pressure cooker style weeks where 60-80 hours was the norm. If you can keep that up, even better
Just teasing. Design school definetly breeds a certain amount of constant work. I think students in other majors don’t have much of a concept of how much work ethic it takes to make it through a design program. Of course a student can skate by with a minimum of work and even do well in terms of grades. Likely it will show in his or her portfolio though and limit the student’s ability to get internships and jobs.
I’m not sure of your specific situation or skillset, or what you’re looking to do in the field of ID, however, the Academy of Art in San Francisco may be an option to consider. It’s generally cheaper than Art Center, but living in San Francisco will cost as much as tuition unless you’re diligent and find a really cheap place or are willing to commute from nearby areas.
They take students with 2nd bachelors and expedite the program by removing all of the General Education classes. Most of the people I know that have done this are out of the program in 2.5-3 years. Mind you this isn’t a ton of time to develop all of your skills but if you have the dedication it’s doable.
It’s a frustrating school, but if you’re interested shoot me a message and I can give you some more information based on my experiences.
How about looking for an Industrial Design firm with job openings for computer science or software developer? Not a career change but at least you can be involved in the product development process and get a first hand look into industrial design.
I think your plan of taking foundation classes at CSULB or Art Center (at Night) is a good plan. At the end of the day, your portfolio is what gets you hired. The advantage of going through the whole degree is the exposure to different teachers, mentors, students, projects, etc.
I thought Academy of Art was pretty expensive? Maybe it’s not, just what I’ve hear. Most private schools are going to be pretty speedy. The state programs can be a better price fit if you have residence. In Cali, Long Beach and San Jose have ID programs for example. Cleveland Institute of Art and Columbus College of Art and Design are also well known for their value to education ratio.
They take students with 2nd bachelors and expedite the program by removing all of the General Education classes. Most of the people I know that have done this are out of the program in 2.5-3 years. Of course, a student can skate by with a minimum of work and even do well in terms of grades. Likely it will show in his or her portfolio though and limit the student’s ability to get internships and jobs.