Mechanical Engineers Invading ID

How is it perceived to see ME’s in the design market? As I get closer to product development projects I tend to lean to the creative side of the process. I can’t necessarily justify going through the academic process of getting an ID degree and internship etc., when I’m already established as an engineer, so I’ve been incorporating what I’m learning here in the projects I work on. Do you see ME’s with portfolio’s? Do they differ from the norm?

If you’re an ME with wicked surfacing abilities, you’ll do well. But expect to still be hired as a super competent ME, or in a role as an all around 1 man army. Trying to get a specific ID position may be harder, though not impossible.

It’s typically not expected for ME’s to have a portfolio. Although being able to point to work you’ve done that is far beyond what is typically expected of an ME will always be good.

As a hiring manager I would most certainly require a portfolio, and it had better show design process.

That said, if a position came down to an ID or an ME with comparable portfolios, I would have to have a really compelling reason to opt for the ME.

I used to work with an ME who thought he was an ID. His reasoning for going ME over ID was that he wanted the things he designed to be produce-able, but he couldn’t develop a concept and present a proposal to save his hide, yet acted as though his CAD screenshots were entitled to be manufactured because he had tenure… Add a strong dose of passive aggressive behavior into the mix and you have the perfect storm of what gives ME’s a bad rep with some ID’s.

Moral of the story, even if you never get into ID, don’t be that guy, but if you do get into ID, have a compelling edge.

I’ll throw in an opposing viewpoint here. I’d be much more interested in the ME (with ‘comparable portfolios’ - the value of an ME with ID sensitivity is high in my book).

Most of our projects require the input of ME’s and sometimes EE’s along with our valuable ID’s but the role that really ties all of that together is the hybrid CAD guy. We have a few ME’s who kick as on SW and a few ID’s who kick as on Rhino, but the ID or ME turned CAD jockey is top dog. Sensitivity to design, knowledge of utility & mechanics and the ability to put it all into manufacturable 3D - awesome.

My advice, ‘be all the ME you can be’ while also bathing yourself in aesthetics and developing a strong knowledge base of CAD aptitude.

I think that depends on what your ultimate goal is as a professional. Remember, design is not just CADing up parts. Design is discovering what to design in the first place. Unraveling and defining the who, what, where, why, when, and how of a product. The most beautifully sculpted surface isn’t worth a damn on the wrong product, or if it does not embody the right brand ethos, or connect with the larger culture around it. Never mistake a tool with a result.

Sure you can get a job, but will you have the foundation necessary to grow into the kind of profesional you would like to be in 10-20 years. This is a marathon, not a sprint. In the last fifteen years I’ve seen people take short cuts, get great immediate results, and then find themselves hitting a glass ceiling. I’ve seen others take their time, what seemed like steps backward, only to continue to rise as they progressed.

Construct a path to your future self.

it also depends on the industry your going into. there are B to B products where ID doesn’t matter.
I worked in one such industry and displaced an ME who was really pissed until he saw what the difference was, it took awhile to bring him around but that’s another story. The products sold to a captive market both B-B and B-C, so ID had little overall influence.
I can’t imagine an area where CADJockies call the shots instead of ID, unless the ID’rs are the most superficial of stylists.
So ask yourself what type of product you want to design, are they consumer products (go into ID for sure) are they business products (then ID would still be a good bet) or are they industrial/manufacturing products (ME absolutely)

Been there, and the designers involved went far beyond being superficial stylists, the issue was purely political, glad those days are over…

I have to agree with Yo about foundations, and by my example of comparable portfolios and the ME having something compelling, it needs to be more concrete than “I’d like to try my hand at ID”.

I like to see people branching off into other areas of new product development and see it as a definate plus. Segregating yourself into one area is limiting at best and can create walls in the process at worst.

You are an ME that wants to get into design. Great.
You are ID and want to get into the research. Great.
You are a researcher that wants to get into manufacturing. OK, that is a stretch, but if you have mastered the ID and ME before the leap into manufacturing, go for it.

My point is that there is a lot that goes into the NPD process and I find it boring to be stuck in one place.

Thanks for the input everyone! My take from this is to start developing a portfolio and if I feel I lack certain skills to accomplish that, then I have to strengthen those skills. I feel that one nice advantage to accomplishing the portfolio is that I already have products in the market. I’ve noticed since incorporating design sensitivities (as Generatewhatsnext called it) my presentation, conceptualization, and process have been evolving from project to project. Once I feel ready I’ll start popping up a portfolio for critique.

Oh Boy!, that ME you are describing could be me in 4,5 more years!, I mean, I think I’m choosing ME over ID because I want to design things and I want them to be produce-able, not just beautiful concepts and modern art. Am I doing wrong?

CrazCruz, your comment seems pretty ill informed.

ID is not about just making beautiful concepts, and MEs don’t design things, they engineer things (though they say design often).

A good industrial designer knows just enough about how things are made to be dangerous, not so much that he/or she is locked into doing things the way they always have been. While everyone’s role is slightly different, personally as a designer, I go to asia, work with manufacturers, sign off on tooling… I’m held responsible for everything from product definition to revenue once it hits market. Being produceable is critical.

Here is a project my team just finished. It is IPX rated, shock tested, dust sealed, has serious sonic requirements, and an array of attachment methods. On top of all of that it has a removable silicone skin. Understanding and working with all of that was key for the design team, even though on the surface it is just a simple speaker.

Well, Gracias Yo for considering my comment.

I was trying to describe what my situation is (I improperly used the wrong words)

Right now I have a lot in my mind since I don’t what should I go for…?
If I go for ID how would I recognize that I’m going to far on my design and then go back or start a new design? Would I be wasting my joy and facility doing math?

I have a topic that I just created about this old dilemma and I’ll appreciate every comment of you. Thank Yo

CrazCruz - you didn’t necessarily use the wrong words - I’ll disagree with Yo just a tad bit here to let you know that some MEs do in fact design things, but its the ID person who partners with him on any particular project whose responsibility it is to make sure that any design work the mechanical engineer has developed fits with the sensitivities of the ID discipline (brand, color scheme, user interface, form, tactile/audible/visual feedback, etc). Similar to what Yo advised, I always describe the ID function as one that sits directly between engineers and marketers to bring all the develop parts together on behalf of the user - a well balanced industrial design function then also plays equally important roles at both the front end (research) and back end (manufacturing) of any product’s development.

You can be a successful ME who contributes to the ID function just as efficiently as you can be a successful ID person who contributes to the engineering function. :slight_smile:

Good point Scott, I was being a little hyperbolic in my language there to keep the post black and white, but it is a little more nuanced than that. The product development process is a collaborative dance.

Im too in a position that I can become that ME guy:

Greenman wrote:

“… he couldn’t develop a concept and present a proposal to save his hide, yet acted as though his CAD screenshots were entitled to be manufactured because he had tenure… Add a strong dose of passive aggressive behavior into the mix and you have the perfect storm of what gives ME’s a bad rep with some ID’s.

Moral of the story, even if you never get into ID, don’t be that guy, but if you do get into ID, have a compelling 4,5 years”

But in my case, I already have a degree in ID. The thing is that I am (was??) not believing anymore that ID isn’t just superficial. Here some reasons why:

  • In Brazil, where I work and live, companies still don’t rely on ID as much as in the developed countries. I think that might be because technologies and investment are not abundant. So, on one side, the client needs the designer to do both, design and engineering, or he hires an engineer and a recent graduated or undergraduate designer to make the product form; on the other side, the client with the best technology always wins here, is different from a place where every body kind of have the same technological knowledge and therefore design count a lot.

  • In this interview: this guy, Tom Hulme, says he wanted to make impact, so he began in the business side of things. Designers also have to learn a lot of other skills to make strategic decisions

  • The posts shown in the blogs Core77 and HumanInvent, the blogs that I really Love, are from a different category than the posts shown in, for example, Dexigner, Dezen or Mocoloco. I love Invention more that I love Design. I think Design education may be more about culture and communication, living a hole in technical fundamentals that are important for freedom of creation.

  • Other guy, Anthony Gormley, an excellent artist, is graduated in 3 professions (don’t remember witch ones). This is proof that horizontal knowledge don’t affect creativity

I think about the decision of study ME for a long time. Until i read this forum i was sure i was going to study ME. Now I am in doubt. My biggest fear is that my creations will never reach the level that I wanted for them.

Great comments you posted, keep them coming!

No, but it sounds like you have a lot more questions to ask yourself about what you really want to do, if you’re still in school then you’ve got plenty of time.

I read your post to contain a dose of sarcasm, so I’ll bite. The dude I was referencing had told me exactly what you just said in a context with which to bash my own chosen path, as an insult if you will, to diminish the fact that I took a more design focused path, which he felt was superfluous and less valuable to our organization. If you want to be a jack-of-all-trades and you have the competency to back that up, then go for it, doubly so if you lack common professional social skills required to work well with others as part of a team of diverse disciplines, because you will find yourself working alone more often than not. What I’m getting at is you can take a more focused path and if you work well as part of a team where roles and responsibilities are well defined, you don’t have to be able to do it all, but you do have to trust those involved.

I meant no sarcasm :slight_smile: I really don’t know if I should or not study ME

Oh, hey I was referring to CrazCruz bud, no worries.

It sounds like in your situation the ME would be a benefit, but consider if you really need to get another degree or if you just need more ME skills/knowledge. Taking ME related classes to gain the skills while you are employed might be all you need to get the edge you’re looking for.

Where I work we have younger ID who has done a lot of ME related on-the-job training simply by learning from the ME’s and DE’s. He certainly has more new skills today than he did when he walked in the door a few years ago.

With all that you said now I completely understand this topic, the whole “ME invading ID” thing.
And No Sarcasm, literally I could have been that person you were describing. laughs

If I were in your shoes I’d look for a program to get a masters of ID, maybe taking evening classes here and there as it fits in your schedule. Having an ME background is incredibly beneficial to ID, but to really become a designer I believe you need to learn not just the “hows” of production that they teach in school, but also the who/what/when/where/why through studios and design history and research coursework. I’m an industrial designer and I work very closely with MEs and sometimes we do incorporate their design input, but at the end of the day the designers call the shots.

Here’s something else to consider (although it probably doesn’t apply to dedicated ID firms, I work as one of a handful of industrial designers at a huge contractor): When potential clients come to our company with a project, they ask for a stack of resumes for every employee who will be working on their product and they want to see designers with design degrees. They would balk at the fact we hired someone and gave them a job title of “designer” even though they have no formal design education, and might take their contract elsewhere.