self directed projects


I am an industrial design major and I just finished my freshman year.

My friend and I want to begin a collaborative project either this summer or fall. The only thing is, we don’t know how to start. The ideas that we’ve generated so far are mostly vague concepts like ‘we should have a set’, ‘let’s redesign something’, or ‘I definitely don’t want to do that.’ I feel like every time we talk about the project, it becomes more difficult to pinpoint towards one direction.

What’s the best way to begin something like this, especially for the first time?


Helps to find a common point of interest (furniture, transportation, consumer electronics, interface…). Then start to sketch/make. Find out what is worth pursuing by doing. The hardest part is starting: after that, it’s just fun! It might also help to document your process (even at the beginning when you are still in the discovery/project definition phase).

Finding something that you both like will be tough. Laying out a schedule sometime (like professors do at the beginning of each project) would help you manage yourselves. Post on Core!

Most of my personal projects I focus on one of my hobbies. If it’s something you want and have a high interest in, you’d spend more $$ and effort so you can use it afterwards. Don’t be afraid to fail, if it turns out bad you still learn a lot from it, maybe more.

Go to the library and read some business and general interest magazines and newspapers - look through the tech, science, art, business sections in particular, and start making a trends file. Figure out the criteria for the project you want to work on - is it about styling, user experience, mechanical problem solving, a new business model? - and start sorting the trends you’ve identified into those groups. You’ll start to see patterns emerge that will lead to potential projects.

For example - based on the mortgage mess, could you create an interactive tool that helps match prospective homeowners with the right lending packages, or based on smart phone technology create a useful in-store customer application to help retailers sell more, or an improved tsunami warning system, or a portable, powerful, digital data rich medical imaging device? Just a few ideas to get you thinking. The point is, look around the world to see what problems are keeping people up at night and come up with some solutions. Unless you think the world needs another one-off chair…

I would actually stay away from personal hobbies - they can quickly become a rabbit hole of subjectivity.