need some advice and direction ( education, software, life )

howdy ho
so i’m a little lost here and i need a few words of advice.
i graduated with a BFA in sculpture last may, which took me six lovely but long years. now i live in wonderful western massachusetts and wash dishes at one of the colleges around here. i still make art, but i’ve decided about 4 months ago that i’ll start working towards becoming a product designer ( and I will probably lean towards furniture, lighting and household items ) i love functional objects, i’ve always walked the line between art and craft, and i can’t take the guilt of making beautiful things that serve no purpose.
so here is the dilemma:
i refuse to go back to school unless it’s grad school, and i understand that i’ve got a long way to go before that happens. what i need is a little help with the steps in between

here is the plan right now:

  1. Get some drafting software running on my computer ( I have a Mac, what should i get ? I was thinking Parallels + Autocad? Or should I use Bootcamp? Any better ideas? )
  2. Get my hands on some good books. I’m a great book-learner. Please recommend. Donald Norman, Richard Powell?
  3. Start some projects? I’ve been sketching ideas, but i’m really all-over-the-place. What are some typical beginner projects?
  4. ??? OK what now ? I’m thinking find a design firm and beg to be their b*tch, but that almost seems counterproductive… And then what? Has anyone actually made it that way? Do you know people in the field that have an education in art but work in design? Am I being silly?


One thing that would probably help us help you would be to post up some of your work. When I went into design I was considering sculpture so I have some hope for you here.

  1. Software on a mac, NO AUTOCAD, there are several options I would suggest playing around with google sketchup a little bit just because it’s free, super intuitive and will help you play around with some basic stuff and get some concepts down, from there I would consider Rhino or Solidworks on Bootcamp OR … Alias is now running native in OSX. Seeing your work and/or understanding the forms you would like to create in 3D could help.

  2. Books
    seems like you read the recent books post:
    Must read/have design books.
    some good stuff in there
    I would also say this website (check tbe articles and read the forums) and a few others are worth checking out

lots of others

  1. Projects
    Again, it would be good to see where you’re at with your sketch explorations.
    Many first year projects are explorations in the semantics of form, this may be a forms that convey action: push, pull, turn, etc or forms that connote speed or emotion. Your sculpture background should help you a bit here. These exercises are typically done in foam or clay. I would then try to take one of the successful explorations and apply it to a simple functional object. Other beginning projects often have to do with simple hand tools (this can help understand simple ergonomics and how we manipulate things with our hands). One project my school does in the first year is to make a wooden child’s toy which has some action where they need to create the mechanism as well. Most of these projects are designed to teach a fundamental design principle while learning about going through the rest of the design process, they are often also sequenced as to build on each other, ie - learning formal semantics in the abstract before applying them to a product.

  2. now what?
    Get to work, start posting things up for critiques, etc. then people can help with some direction.

thanks a ton, IDiot

i get the designboom daily newsletter, it’s great. i’ll check out the other two sites

my boyfriend suggested i start playing with sketchup and i shut him down :slight_smile: of course now that a complete stranger suggests the same thing i’ll have to give it a go. i always do that, i think it might be a personality flaw on my part. heh.

i’ll post my sculptural work, and i think i’ll hold off the the sketches until i get to a more comfortable level.
so here it goes.

and a few more


I like the feet on your bathtub.

you’ve got some amazing fabrication skills. Do you need to go back to school?

Your work reminds me of a firm out here in Western Washington:

The sculptural one-off aspect and some of the wacky subject matter suggest that this may be a way into the design world. Perhaps there are similar firms in your area.

Slippyfish’s link made me think of a place near where I went to school that employs a lot of sculpture and painting grads for exhibit work.

Something along those lines could (at the very least) replace your dishwashing job, keep your skills sharp, and get you some great experience and a foot in the door.

cdaisy, thanks those are casts of mine :wink:

yo, well i feel like a couple of years in an incubator could be good when switching to a few field. if i manage to make it in ID without any schooling, then more power to me i guess…
and … is there really a place for good fabrication skills in product design these days?

slippyfish, they’re definitely awesome and wacky. I have a strong feeling that that place is full of set designers and special effects folk, but there would probably be room for me in this type of a shop. Don’t know if that’s what I’m going for, but i’ll keep my eyes peeled. thanks.

i suppose i should have mentioned that I also used to make pots, and came about 6 credits away from getting a degree in that as well. i really enjoy the design challenges that come with being a potter, while I don’t actually want to limit myself to pots, and that’s one of the reasons i think ID will be a good field for me.

true that. both you and slippyfish have excellent points and here is where dilemma #2 comes in:

i just moved to the country. it’s like a college town oasis in the middle of nowhere. and i really really like it here, but the job market or cool firms around here are practically non-existent. i’ll have to get closer to a city for cool places like that, and it will probably be worth it, but i don’t know if i can give up miles of fields and woods in my back yard just yet.

If you are going to do furniture, then I think you probably have a lot of the skills you need.

I’m thinking of New England modern furniture like these guys:

or sculptors like Noguchi

A few years at a place like the Oregon College of Art and Craft could be really interesting. they are doing some good stuff lately:

I’d think about jewelry design. Rhino has some great plugins and tutorials just for that.

also, you can build at home, in your basement, and then do the craft show circuit as you like during the summers.

Nice work!

oh yeah, sometimes toy firms use degreed sculptors for their toys. You might contact a design consultancy who does toy models and see if they can send you some work.

I think in the mean time while you look for more permanent work, you should look for a job in the furniture industry. Even if you cant find design work you can find a job at some capacity (sales,or whatever) I cant help but think that you would learn more towards your goal of furniture design here than washing dishes. Since you have to work while you accomplish your other goals it might as well be in a place where you might learn about your product, even if its only what tables sell best in august. goodluck to you , I think you have some really great looking sculptures

Actually I think the internship would be a great idea. You already have great conceptual, design and fabrication skills, just not in the context of industrial design. Working with a company would give you that.