Need advice/help on choosing between ARCH or ID

i thought I’d post this in case anyone can help me out. I have an undergrad in fine arts and would like to pursue a career in design and get a masters. However I am so conflicted between Architecture or Industrial design. My interests really go to both fields wanting to work with spaces, different materials, working creatively. I really love architecture and the ability to work with larger scales but being able to make products and being a designer within so many industrial fields is very appealing also? I’d really like some help and thoughts considering the time and money that goes into getting a masters. Thanks for your help.

I would go with architecture, ID/product design is becoming a commodity where it is almost given away. Architecture will mean you work on fewer projects but they will last, unlike most things that ID generates.

I had the same decision to make after high school. I applied to both and got into the best programs in the country for both disciplines. what cemented ID to me was a discussion with the ID chair of the school that ended up attending. He didn’t overaly push ID vs. arch, but gave me the following to consider-


  1. ID is more “democratic” (small “D”). Anything you make will succeed or fail based on the person who uses it. It’s an oversimplification to be true, but still valid. Most people don’t choose the building they work in, the architecture of their home/condo, but all those little choices of what hairdryer you buy, chair, etc. are what make ID great and fulfilling. (See the "simple joy of seeing your product made thread The simple joy of seeing one of your products made. )

  2. ID is about smaller tolerances. In arch, it can be +/- an inch or even more. In ID it can be +/- 0.0001mm This attention to detail can be very rewarding if you like details.

  3. ID can (not always) be the product of a single person/driver. In arch, it’s rarely so (even the starchitects don’t do their own blueprints, engineering drawings, etc.). This is a good thing if you are driven personally to create and have the drive to express yourself.

  4. ID allows you more opportunities to make things. While it may be hard to get a job first thing out of university, chances are if you do, you’ll see at least something you worked on and maybe even did yourself go to market. (see thread “first thing you designed” everybody has their first paying project, here is mine ). In arch, chances are at best you’ll do a home addition or more likely redraw someone’s drawings. There is jsut that much architecture built than products. period. Architecture projects may last longer but as you do less, you get less opportunity to learn and get better. In that way, your project may be around in 20 years, but will it be your best? In footwear, I’ve done maybe over 150 shoe designs. Most aren’t still on the market, but I’m happy. The first 50 at least sucked. I’m that much better of for doing more and learning than holding my project as “precious” and the feeling it may be the only one I ever do to get realized.

choice is yours. Nothing wrong with arch, just my thoughts.


Lots of truth to what your saying, but lets face it most of what we do in ID ends up in the land fill FAST and that bothers me more and more.

No doubt. Unfortunately, most architecture should land up in the landfill, but doesn’t… Trial and error wins, perhaps to some degree?


Most architecture should end up in a landfill, ok, pretty elitist on your part, given that even the most “reviled” rancher and split level from the 60’s gets bought, sold and used for decades would say that for many they fit their needs and wants. They are cared for and remodeled and even if not meeting your artistic standards seem to provide value and comfort to many. ID is by definition about disposable consumption, some trickles down to others of lower economic means but for the most part its off to the dumpster when its used up or no longer in style.

Thanks for all your advice. I think both of you guys have some key points i should consider. is it very difficult to find jobs within ID but easier in ARCH?I also thought ID included other mediums besides product design or am i mistaken? I do like how arch is more permanent but at the same time designing for everyday use on a smaller scale interests me also. Im primarily trying to focus on interior space and how that works architecturally with the other elements which go with that space. My other interests also lie in fashion which ive tried but wasnt fulfilling enough bc the materials were limiting. I would also love to do furniture design. Some people have suggested interior designing but I thought that was too limiting for me. My most common practice in my undergrad studies was doing fashion, photography and sculpture. Being able to actually build sculptures was so fulfilling for me but wasn’t in terms that it would really be nothing more than visual art ( which is fine but not something i wasnt to do as a career).
This decision is harder than i thought!

Actually I love me a 60s sidesplit. and ranch style… wish they had more of those up here! Look at any major city though and you can clearly see where most architecture is nothing but rote. Beige condos, faux tudor-vitorian-colonial townholmes. please. you don’t need any degree to put that crap up. sadly, that’s 90% of architecture. while ID mag may be complete BS (and i fully agree it is), at least the majority of the product they display are available for the majority of the people. Dwell and other Arch mags show stuff that maybe 2% of people ever ever see let alone own.

that, is my point. Good ID can touch many, and good arch. on the whole touches very few.


Dwell and other Arch mags show stuff that maybe 2% of people ever ever see let alone own. that, is my point. Good ID can touch many, and good arch. on the whole touches very few.

It has always been only the well-to-do that can afford to have their private residence specifically designed for them. For the most part, our everyday, run of the mill, commercial projects, apartment units, and private homes are designed by “building designers” (a job classification that does not require a degree in architecture to hold). In fact, I spent a couple of years doing this myself while establishing my ID practice (hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do…).

But on the whole I do believe that architecture affects more people than may know it. Even if on a subliminal level.

I grew up in Columbus, Indiana, flat as a billiard table, surrounded by cornfields, with a population of 21 thousand in the sixties. Beginning in the early 1950’s, with thanks to Architectural Grants (for design services) by the Cummins Engine Company Foundation, my life and those of thousands of people have lived with the works of I.M Pei, Harry Wiese, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Cesar Peli, Richard Meirer, and others for decades.

Architecture does not have to be “owned” per se, the influence of actually living and working inside these structures has added significantly to the cultural perspective of my life. And having grown up with these buildings in my environment I as much “own” them, as those who hold deed to them.
How could it otherwise?

Cleo Rodgers Memorial Library/ I.M. Pei / 1966

North Christian Church / Eero Saarinen / 1942

First Baptist Church / Harry Wiese / 1966 / National Historic Landmark

Columbus City Hall / Edward Charles Bassett / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill / 1981

First Christian Church / Eero Saarinen 1942 / National Historical Landmark

Cummins Engine Company Corp. HQ

Central Fire Station No. 1 / 1942 / National Historic Landmark

Employee Cafeteria / Cummins Engine Company Corporate Headquarters

St. Peter Lutheran Church / Gunnar Birkets / 1988

Bartholomew County Jail/ Don M. Hisaka / 1991
with influences from the County Court House

Bartholomew County Courthouse / John Elder / 1839

Parkside Elementary School / Norman Fletcher / 1962

2nd Street Bridge

Free Span Bridge over I-65 / IN 46

two things
first the landfill question 74% is Manufacturing waste 24% is Architectural waste and >2%is residential household waste.
People buying stuff and tossing it in the trash is not the biggest landfill contributor.

Second, fine art is much closer to architecture than design in that most students aspire to and therefore most schools teach the “starchetect” model. this is Highy ego-centric and B.S. laden - just like fine art.
You’ll never hear someone in an ID crit referencing a 17th century philosopher…ever.

Haha. Good point. At my school, ID was located in the building next to Architecture and we always walked through the Arch halls on the way to other classes. I can’t tell you how many times I saw projects making building models out of scrap junk, and overhearing some student spewing crap about how his "4 dimension dwelling concept was a post-realism juxtaposition of the social class model in reference to the economies of Plato, and thus, the reason why his building had no windows…

Sad thing is, most of these people end up designing a garden shed or a big box store. ha!


or it’s just because they had never been trained to understand anything else outside the box. To make consumer products that will be used only 9 months doesn’t require to understand 17th century philosophy anyway.

Oppositely, I think that is a beauty part of most architecture schools, they train you to see the connection of so many things in human history. Architecture is about human, not building. It is very important to understand and learn philosophy, and culture history. If you think that is bullshit, it’s fine. no surprise at all.

Personally I think both ID and Arch are really great career, it depends on what you want to do exactly.
My opinion is to start with what kind of people and environment you want to spend time with for the whole career life.

consider the fact that less than 10% of buildings in the US have used an Architect…

one, there’s a lot of crap out there, slapped up by contractors and developers. but they pass code.

Two, nobody cares. (well, only a very small portion does)

Three, the pinnacle of all arch B.S. produced the worst of all architectural movements (can you guess which one?)

So - any one here is welcome to call me shallow.

You’ve never been to a crit at RISD then.

Most DESIGN and ARCHITECTURE is crap. Pure laziness. The 2% we talk about on here razes above the fray. A quick drive around any bedroom community across the US will back that. Shutters that don’t shut, vinyl siding meant to look like wood, cement foundations way above grade, these are builder,s specials. Architecture not done by architects, but really just glorified draftsmen and builders. Likewise a stroll down the aisles at Wallmart will reveal the majority of products are not designed, but merely sourced.

Is this view elitist? No. A designer that wants to bring good design to everyone is not an elitist, just a designer. Stop complaining about filling up the landfill, and start designing products good enough that people want to hold onto them.

I suggest that you go with architecture, keeping an eye on industrial design by hanging out with IDers and taking good note of what they learn in order to widen your capabilities.

ID was born from Architecture and is just a specialization now, you can basically have fun doing ID while doing architecture e.g. design your own furniture for a certain building.

Architecture is also respected on a international level, it makes good money but is still very limiting concerning creativity.

Actually ID was born from the trades. Pre industrial revolution craftsmen became pattern makers at the factories which evolved into designers. The original name for the ID department at RISD was tooling design back in the 1900’s. Most of the Original crop of labeled “Industrial Designers” were illustrators such as Loewy and Teague.

academic vs professional practice

Remember Cranbrook’s product-as-sculpture phase?

  • actually been to plenty of RISD crits, nothing is intrinsicly superior because of intellectual aspirations.

I’ve always heard that architects don’t start making good money until they’re 40. Not sure if its true.

I love ID. I always strive to design something that someone falls in love with. If something is well designed and beautiful it hits the chocolate-sex region of the brain. Plus some of the best objects become cherished antiques, which is way cool. I got into ID with the dream that one day I could surround myself with furniture and objects I designed. Its getting close to reality for me. It gives me a good reason to get out of bed. (which I didn’t design… yet)

I do feel guilty about my gigantic carbon footprint. But it keeps me motivated to be a better designer, so I try like hell not to make instant trash. (which is why I quit direct mail marketing years ago)

Hopefully in 3000 years someone will pull a lamp or chair I designed out of the dirt and wonder what the hell it is!

you can basically have fun doing ID … while doing architecture e.g. design your own furniture …