Not sure where to start, any advice is better than none

I hope I’m not posting in the wrong place or doing something horribly wrong by posting this. In fact I was a little nervous about posting, but here it goes. Forgive me if I sound pretentious in any way (feel free to tell me if I do).

I am a college student on break, going to start my second year this fall. At the college I go to, I have had quite a few CAD and technical classes (ie. how to read machinists handbooks, etc) but no real design classes yet. As such, I feel that I am incredibly behind every other student going into ID at the moment. I have yet to get a job this summer, so I feel I should work hard on design (though I should regardless of having a job). I have looked around the internet for resources and I’ve tried to absorb as much design as I can through the internet (through Core77, Yanko, and some others), but I quite frankly feel a little lost and unsure where to start. I want to try different fields of design (electronics, footwear, etc) and see if I can improve my art overall while doing so.

So, if you are willing, do you have suggestions (books, websites, general advice) for me as a design student? General questions and comments are also totally okay.

Forgive me if my post is a little hectic or frantic sounding, it’s late (for me) and I feel the need to try and catch up to everyone else. Thanks again.


If you are really seriuos about this, check out Elements of Design by Rowena Reed Kostellow. It has a bunch of good exercises (so I hear), but I also hear that without one of her former students or herself looking over your work, it’s not as effective.

If you are down for reading a book, look at Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. This will definitely set you on the right path when thinking about designing everything (he examines the commonplace object that is always under designed like doorknobs, sink faucets, etc, and discusses principles that should carry through design). Definitely worth a buy/borrow from the library.

As far as I know, there’s no real substitute for doing projects with mentors.

If you want to try different fields, then try them! Talk is cheap. Start doodling shoes (look at the footwear/softgoods Sketch-Fu topic), electronics (not cellphones. i’m talking headphones, mice, vacuums…). Check out Sketching by Koos Eissen, and maybe Design Sketching by Erik Olofsson (it can be downloaded online via PDF with some resourceful Googling). Read through it, then start copying it. Find sketches that other people have done, and mimic them (but understand it first). Draw through.

Last summer when I decided to switch to ID, I spent the whole summer sketching, spent hours gawking at entertainment design/concept art stuff, and many more hours drawing them from reference, getting the basics down (ellipses, cubes, circles). I have a whole sketch book full of ellipses/circles/cubes from last summer.

Frankly, your question could have been answered with your own searching (whether on this site, or on others). Clicking through links will take you to an infinite amount of inspiration (via NotCot,, core77, IDsketching). You say you feel lost and unsure where to start: there is no correct starting point. Everyone starts out differently. Just pick a starting point. What intrigues you? What makes you forget time when you’re looking at it? Draw it. Find stuff that’s similar to it.

TLDR: Just draw shit.

What school are you at?

tarngerine: Thanks for the info.

yo: At a smaller place called Baker College (in Michigan, USA). Not a design school or anything, but I’m trying to learn what I can in two years (I’m just doing an Associate’s right now) while I figure out what design school I really want to go for.

Also, I may start posting sketches as I go along. So I’ll link to them from here if anyone is interested. Thanks again for the help.

If you really want to create a knockout portfolios, check out stuff from Royal College of Art It seems as if it is setting the standard for what type of work should be acceptable.

You should take a trip down to Detroit CCS. The best times to go are when they are having their portfolio show’s so check out their site.
Talk to the students and the faculty if you can, they will give you REAL answers. Admissons people have a job to do, and thats to SELL the school to you which is good up to a point. The point is, check out what the best students are doing, and make that your standard. The worst thing you can do is have low standards for your work, then you’re always going to be behind.

If you really want to create a knockout portfolios, check out stuff from Royal College of Art> . It seems as if it is setting the standard for what type of work should be acceptable.

I not sure about that. RCA has a very specific style and while it might be great for certain areas it might not fit others.
Let me ask you, what is your area of interest in design?
Is it furniture, consumer electronics, medical/industrial, packaging, trans, more conceptual/ artistic work?
Know this would help recommending a direction that you can get passionate about.

While I agree that that it is important to be well rounded as a designer, identifying a certain area of design that you love would make it easier to get into it.
Maybe grad school after your time at Baker might be a good idea.