Skills required

If you were to ignore intangible qualities such as “an eye for design”, creativity, etc., how would you rank the actual “skills” needed by industrial designers?

For example;

  1. Sketching
  2. Presentation ability
  3. Model-making / prototyping
  4. AutoCAD / modeling software

    Which is most important (and used the most often) and which is not so important?

(Basically wondering what to spend time improving)

All very equal.

The things you mention focus much on communicating ideas. To get to the ideas problem solvng and seeing/understanding (user)needs are also important.

Added: Obs. Didn’t read your post well enough the first time: what i mentioned might have been covered by “intangible qualities such as “an eye for design”, creativity, etc.,”? Still important though :wink:

  1. (including VISUAL presentation skills)
  2. (VERBAL presentation skills)
    3 and 4 tie for 3rd place.

This assumes you already have your “intangible qualities” nailed down.

“intangible qualities”

Including, but not limited to:

a “thick skin”,

a self-denigrating sense of humor,

and a healthy appreciation for one’s “place” in the universe.

pretty much everything is “intangible”. really, how would you qualitatively rate someone’s sketching? 1 pt for good straight lines, 2pts for good ellipses? another point for good perspective on a box? presentation ability? etc.

…a lot of this has been covered already (check other posts like the great sketch debate, “is sketching important” Is sketching important? etc.), and pretty much every other thread here.

bottom line, everything is important, and which particular skill you are stronger in and how you value each skill may determine what kind of designer you are, and what you do. there is so much variety in the placement/jobs for designers that there is no such ranking of skills that will determine your success. sketch great and poor in presentation, maybe you got a job as a great concept designer. great CAD, poor everything else, you got a good future as a CAD monkey.

pick any one or all, work to improve them and you will go far. It’s not a zero sum game where one skill should be learned at the detriment of another. you/anyone can be better at everything given a bit of effort.

from this post and all your others, it really sounds like you are trying to find the quickest, easiest way to be a designer. (as little time as possible in the studio, 1 skill to focus on, etc.). it doesn’t really work that way. just saying.


from this post and all your others, it really sounds like you are trying to find the quickest, easiest way to be a designer. (as little time as possible in the studio, 1 skill to focus on, etc.). it doesn’t really work that way. just saying.

Not at all. I’m just wondering what I should be focusing on in the next 7ish months before I go to college (if I end up doing ID.) I figured working on my sketching skills would be the best idea, but maybe a balance of different things would be better…?

i don’t mean to make assumptions, just the vibe i was getting. sorry if i misconstrued your intent.

anyhow, to sum up, the answer of what to work on is “everything”. sketching, conceptualization and visualization (seeing things that don’t exist yet) though would be a good start in your step of the process though, i’d suggest, and is easy to do at home with no special materials required (other than a pencil and paper).


you ask too many questions, and (relatively) anonymous discussion forums aren’t always the best place for answers.

I think its a good question, though I think your second clarification is an even better question. My answers to both:

The “hard” skills I most look for in a designer: (I’d add there is a fraction of a hair’s width between the levels of importance in these…):

  1. ability to generate ideas and to efficiently communicate them in 2d, 3d, and verbally

  2. ability to document a process that goes from rough ideation, to design review drawings, to board room level visual presentations

  3. ability to dissect the idea and document it through technical drawings and 3d files for production

  4. ability to research consumers and the marketplace and tangibly tie the findings of that research to the final product in a way that is culture and brand appropriate.

  5. working knowledge of the history of art, design, pop and consumer culture and ability to connect this to design work (this is different than just having a “design eye”, this is having a trained design eye with intent).

    Your second question is more important to where you are as a person about to embark on your design education. What skills can you work on to get you a jump start on your peers in college? Great question…

  6. sketching, drawing, rapid 2d visualization (so many students are focused on communicating their ideas, that if you can get a jump on this, you can spend more time on developing better ideas…)

  7. software, illustrator, phtoshop, rhino, indesign, the programs will evolve quickly over the next few years, but getting a working knowledge is great.

  8. model making (sketch models, sculptural studies)

  9. public speaking

the most important skill you can have is problem solving. period. problem solving requires great comprehension skills, lateral thinking, and excellent communication skills to get the solution across.

often, the ugliest sketch is the best solution.