Mechanical Engineer - work more or grad school asap?

Hello everyone!

I am a recent Mechanical Engineering graduate from India looking to get into Industrial Design. I would really appreciate some advice on my confusions about my plans for graduate ID education.

Current scenario -

  1. Decided I wanted to do Industrial Design sometime in August last year and prepared a hurried portfolio based on the ideas I had until then.
  2. About to complete a 6 month internship at a design consultancy in my hometown - very good internship - have gotten a great, unique project here.
  3. Have applied for graduate courses in the US, received an admit from Georgia Tech so far (need to decide about the admit soon) - still to hear from SCAD and SVA - rejects from the rest.

Ideal future scenario-
Want to be a a strong industrial designer with a broad scope, getting to do multiple kinds of projects and work on human-centred products with good functionality and invent new things.

The confusions-
1)Should I go for the Georgia Tech program? It’s a great university overall, but I have my confusions because of how I’ve heard it’s very user-research based and because most of the students coming out get into UX design (not something I want to stick to in the future).


2)Should I work for longer, maybe a year or two more, polish my portfolio, add more content and projects, and then apply to stronger programs/programs more suited to what I want to do? ( So far I can think of University of Cincinnati, maybe exploring more college in Europe like Umea, Delft, etc. which I haven’t done in this leg of applications) Does it make a difference to go in with more work experience and maybe absorb things from the course better? Would it be worth waiting a year or two for a stronger program?

Please let me know your opinions on this decision and these universities. Any other related information will also be appreciated. :smiley:

Thank you all of you and the admins for this blog! It’s been a great source of information for these last few months for me! You guys are life-savers!

Raunak Mahtani

Hi Ranuak, I always think that the more work experience you can get, the better it will look on your cv. Being from the UK, I don’t know what Georgia Tech, Scad or SVA are like, hopefully one of the other board members will be able to help you out.

Hi Raunak,

Georgia Tech has a very good industrial design program. One of my students went there for an exchange program. You could say it focuses on experience design (UXD) but from what I have seen it is very product-oriented, envisioning a new product as part of an overall experience/situation. So you will get the broad scope and human-centered approach you are looking for. Also in Europe Georgia tech has a very good name and the universities have good relationships with each other. If you do this program my main advice is, because of the mass-educational approach in the US vs. for example here in the Netherlands, to keep working towards who you want to be as a designer and be very active in which courses and projects you do as well as your methodology.

The question is though, do you really want to keep studying full-time when you can already, with your current degree, step into the industrial design industry. A lot will depend on your own knack for design and the quality of your ideas - you may need to incubate yourself into a design program for a while but you will have to estimate yourself whether you feel you can step into a business as a designer. If you do, an internship is a great place to start. Also you could apply as a product engineer and, while gradually working together more with the designers, make the step towards industrial design. You can do that with a Mech Eng degree and some sense for design, and as they say the rest is personality.

Also, don’t prepare a hurried portfolio unless you get unique opportunities you have to respond to. If you have some good ideas, take some time to talk about them with a few other professionals to discuss their value, and if you have the time take some weeks/months to in-depth develop and present your ideas. You can always post your ideas here for feedback.

Thank you Product Tank and Ralph for your replies! I appreciate you finding the time to help!

Another update is that I have also received an admit from NCSU, which I had forgotten to mention earlier. That is also a solid program, I hear.

Ralph, I found your reply very refreshing! I understand that I need not necessarily see my design career as starting off only after a graduate program.

Though, a point I see in favor of graduate studies right now is that the foundation year (both my options are 3-year programs) would help me cover up on ID-based skills in a much more organized and comprehensive manner. That coupled with the following two years of the graduate course should set a solid base for me before I work further. Plus, I’m a learner by nature, so an academic environment is always something I’d like.
How strong a point do you think this is?

I 100% agree that portfolio projects should not be hurried. I did that, and have seen since I started my internship how much attention, time and detailing any design project deserves.

Thank you again! Also, please let me know if you have any idea of the NCSU program. I shall post on the Design School thread asking for a comparative opinion.

Hi Raunak,

It’s a good point that to become an ID’er you need to be in the right environment, say, you need to marinate a bit and get a feel for the work you are doing vs. being a Mech Eng. So I can understand that following a program attracts you. That being said, I have to say I would think twice before investing in the NCSU program compared to Georgia Tech. It looks quite traditional in approach (it can be a good thing if that is what you are looking for), I have never heard of any of the teachers, I don’t see much innovative or top-class work and I don’t get a good idea of their studio-environments looking at the website. At Georgia Tech you can also follow electives and focus more on traditional ID skills if you want. Maybe there is someone else on the board who knows the NCSU program better. Have you applied to any European programs?

In my view though, you are already a step ahead having a technical degree plus an ID-related internship. It would be ideal if you could work part-time in your field, and see if you can integrate ID-related activities more and more, and spend the rest of the days doing your own ID-related activities - setting up projects, visiting trade fairs, doing workshops - directly working towards an ID-related job. But if you have a strong feeling you need an academic environment, that is a good point because you can spend full time specializing yourself, gaining deeper knowledge and experience and creating a unique master project.