Start now, later, or masters


I’m a third year (out of 4.5 years) mechanical engineering student in Canada and didn’t discover the world of design until about a year ago. Since then I managed to get a 3 month internship at a design studio in LA as an introduction to design, and worked as a designer more than an engineer despite being hired for an engineering position.

Now I’ve realized that I want to work in ID as a career, and am trying to figure out the best way to get there. I don’t think I’m incapable as far as form factor goes, but my strengths lie in function, and in fact I’m having to practice limiting myself to form so that I can when necessary. For example, in one such exercise, I tried to design a TV stand on pure form, and ended up with quite a bit of function (360 degree horizontal swivel, quite a bit of vertical, and roundtable for games and dvd’s).

Beginning my design internship I thought I had a decent portfolio (found at if you’re interested) but comparing it to the design interns I realize that it is practically useless. I did work directly on products that are set for market during my internship, but they’re all under NDA.

My question is (sorry for the long introduction), should I drop out of engineering now in favour of starting a new undergrad degree in ID, wait until graduation to start a new undergrad degree, or take a masters in industrial design upon graduation.

I know that many graduate degrees in design take students from other professions as well, so it seems like the obvious answer, but I’m worried about 3 things.

  1. My entrance portfolio won’t be good enough to get in (do they consider your background when submitting?).
  2. I won’t be there long enough to build a good portfolio from my student work.
  3. Employers will be less likely to hire someone for a design position who doesn’t have a design undergrad degree.

If #3 isn’t a problem, I’m figuring a masters degree in combination with an engineering degree will hopefully look quite good, though I know the portfolio is the deciding factor. I’m also hesitant to give up my engineering degree since it shows my technical capability (unless 3 years is enough?).

Any help, comments, criticism would be extremely helpful and appreciated.



I would absolutely go ahead and finish your undergraduate degree in engineering. That’s actually a great way to transition into design, and is a great background to have. There are plenty of master’s programs in design geared towards people in exactly your situation. For example, Northwestern’s is supposed to be great:

Most master’s programs do want you to have work experience before enrolling, however. So after you graduate with your degree in engineering, if product design is still what you really want to do, I would try to get a job working at a design firm. Many design firms employ both engineers and designers; you would get a lot of experience in the field, and have the opportunity to collaborate with designers every day, and gain a better understanding of the profession. Working at a design firm may not pay quite as much as some of the other jobs you could potentially get with your degree, but if you know design is what you want to do, the hands-on experience would be priceless.

Good luck, and make sure to look into past posts in this forum and under other topics! I know there are many engineers who have found themselves in your position over the years, and there is plenty of discussion about making the transition.

Finish your undergraduate degree first. In the meantime try to design something based on aesthetic and function. A good exercise is to design a remote control for TV’s ( No touchscreen ). Get an old remote, take it apart, count how many parts are needed to make one and start analyzing it’s functions with the TV set. Redesign the remote control (maybe for Sony ) and make it better. The design styling part you do at the end of your project.
You’re current portfolio has too much CAD work, show more process, it’s a good start but I would go back to the basics first and build up from there. good luck

First finish your degree in the time you are studying try to design some new things .