school/employment frustration

i have a ba in biology and art (painting/photography). throughout college and after graduating, i worked at labs in some pretty well-known medical institutions. i thought about getting a graduate degree in my field or going on to medical school, but a series of life experiences led me to industrial design. i got really excited about designing medical/lab equipment and issues of sustainability. i applied to an id program that was my top choice, got in, but then was overwhelmed by the huge amount of debt that i would incur over the course of 4 years. plus, i really had no idea how i would begin to be able to pay for my books, materials, and living expenses, even if i did work. when i met with a representative for the school of design, she even asked me why i would want to put myself through such stress and debt, which really killed the last bit of hope i still had that i could make things work.
i declined the offer to attend and decided to try to see if i could get any type of work in at a design firm. i interviewed at a couple of places, but nothing much happened.
i thought i would work at a college/university, so that i could take classes and am currently working at a liberal arts college in western mass. i think i would mainly end up taking engineering classes, since there aren’t many product design classes. mass art in boston is a couple hours away and i thought i might possibly be able to take classes there at some point.

i’m just getting frustrated because i’ve been interested in id for 2-3years now, but i can’t seem to get on track.

it’s particularly frustrating because on the one hand i don’t have any product design experience, but on the other i have a significant amount of relevant science experience to apply to product design. i’m not quite at square 1, and i wish that i could leverage myself as a strong candidate for a design research job at an id firm. i’ve tried applying to these types of positions by researching the firms, the background of the staff members, the products they design, etc. still no bites. i feel like i keep trying to approach my goal from different angles, but keep ending up with little to show for it. any ideas? i’m not claiming to have gone about everything the right way, but i feel i’ve put in some time and thought.


Hello cordelia,

I see why you are so frustrated.

let me tell you a little bit about my own experience.

I am a designer and I also teach design at a university.

In my opinion the most important factor is if you really want to be a designer, means, if you always want to make things, make them look nicer and so on.

I see a lot of people who want to become a designer because it is trendy.

But, you don’t become a designer just because you studied design. No, you become a designer when you design things.

Actually, to become a sucessfull designer you don’t nessecarely have to study design.

There are creative people and there are people who are not so creative.

Nobody can teach you creativity!

What they teach you at school are proven ways of designworkflow. They teach you to a certain extend materials amd manufacturing. They teach you sketching. They teach you colorschemes. And so on.

If you don’t have it in your blood, and if you are not very passionate about it you will never be more than average. If you have it in your blood, and if you are passionate, and if you are lucky you can be a superstar.

See, this whole business is not objective like engineering. It is subjective, and therefore not so good to plan.

You need people who spread the word that you are good, because most people are very insecure when it comes to design or art.

You should not wait untill people come to you, you have to go out!

What is there to loose? Right now you have nothing (in the field of design) so every little bit you get is a plus.

If you want to design, don’t start as a researcher. Start as a designer!

If people tell you, that they don’t like your work, so what. This is normal. tastes are different. There are also people who like your work.

What you also have to understand, is that ID is not like art, it is business.

The clients you will work for want to make money. And they hire your services if they believe that they can make more money due to you.

So research the industry, where they make money and why.

You have to comunicate clearly why it is good for them to work with you.

Just saying " I make nice things" is getting you nowhere. This is art.

Dig a little bit into marketing, this will help you tremendously.

And as for a start, why don’t you team up with a designconsultancy and offer them to work together. You are the expert for these medical things, you talk the talk in that area, and they are the experts in designing stuff.

Together, you could approach new customers. So it is a win win situation. You learn to design on the fly. If you did it this way, you wouldn’t have to study. You would learn much more this way over the 4 years.

Of course, this is just my opinion.