starting over at 50 - in ID

so what that i am young at heart, full of enthusiasm and drive? how does the industry see me - a guy who’s done with the midlife shit and has found a cool reason to move again… by going to school and studing industrial design. so in 4 years i’ll be 50. any words of wisdom? any one got the skinny on this? thanks for constructive critique and words of wisdom…

Personally, I don’t think the issue is usually drive or motivation; more whether you’re willing to be poor. As many of the threads on this board have pointed out over the years, ID employment is a long and arduous path fraught with disappointment, low wages and waiting. People over 30 or 40 who’ve had the benefit of lucrative careers (assuming that’s the case here) may have a hard time adapting to the “intern” mentality, as well as the competition from younger candidates.

To summarize: If you can handle putting in the hours and don’t mind living on the cheap, you can do it. I’d highly recommend talking to some people one-on-one who are practicing the field right now and get a better idea what to expect day to day.

I know a lot of middle aged or older people who started in ID, then found out they really liked art and didn’t want to deal with all the bullsh*t that comes with an ID career.

My vote: Look at the field without rose colored glasses, and then decide if it’s worth it. Consider that a good portion of students ride straight through ID into something else to survive. HAve fun with the education, but figure out how to apply it elsewhere. As a career unto itself, it’s not very good.

But that’s just one person’s opinion.

What’s your background? Maybe that will be the factor that sets you above anyone else.


If you do proceed with this folly I am 99% sure you’ll regret it when you start your job search after graduation. You’ll be be guranteed a good dose of misery.

But hey you only live once and everybody should have the oppirtunity to fuck it up royaly at least once, so welcome to the club.

Money is your ONLY obstacle and that is just an “in the box” train of thought.
I admire your courage and your clarity. I’m just reaching 30 (over the hill in most peoples’ books), and I am only now realizing how YOUNG 50 is.

It’s up to you. Avoid naysayers and arrogant youth who think and behave like their stodgy mothers and fathers…and who ultimately aren’t going anywhere fast.

DO YOUR OWN THING. Create your own path. Find people who are trailblazers like you…at any age
and regardless of age.

Best of luck!

I had a classmate who was 34yrs old, single white female.
She graduated last year.
Because of her age and other circumstances around her, She had a hard time finding a job.
According to her,
She had a few impolite Qs during interviews. Some employers who interviewed her even suggested doing her own thing ( start a firm,if she can ) instead of trying to get a job which will be extremely difficult…

After going through all those,
she finally realized she had to find an UNIQUE way of job searching…which
will set her apart from 20s job seekers…
In the end, she got a job.( it wasn’t a hard-core industrial design job. )

I think go for what you want, but do research and realize what will be
waiting for you after graduation…
Personally, if you can’t be sure of this, don’t even start…

I wouldn’t let the negativity get you down. I had a couple of classmates when I was in school, who were in their late 40’s, all of which graduated and found jobs. Granted, it’s not common, but if you’re passionate about succeeding in design, I don’t think age will hold you back or prevent you from getting a job.

Yeah I would agree with one of the posters above, it’s the money - I’ve been in the field 4 years, top school, excellent work, great job, and I make less than a teacher.

H to the izzo.

I simply had to comment on this topic. I think that since you are 50 you bring with you a wealth of experience. I am not an ID person but do notice from the posts that I’ve read that most IDers are not business people. They will go on an interview and wait for the employer to call them. They wait and wait and wait. My question is what do you (or any other IDer) bring to the table that no one else does? Yes it is challenging out there but ID isn’t the only competitive environment. It’s not the most competitive either. Be cleaer about the question - why should I hire you over someone else!!! Most people don’t know the answer to that question regardless of what field they are in.

Well I know a couple of people that are experiencing a hard time getting into ID.

They all graduated from a top design school and were lucky to find jobs after they graduated. However, that was in the 90’s. Today, these people are considered “has beens” by the industry. It is my understanding that most companies expect someone in their mid to late 30’s to either be a lead or senior level designer. They happen to leave the industry for a few years and are trying to come back after almost 7 to 10 years of no design experience. The first question companies tend to ask is

“What have you been doing all this time?” The software has changed and the design style too. Scary.

I plan to go back to school at night in the medical field. I know this design field is short lived. I’m not in my 30’s but if I don’t make senior or at least lead designer by then I know my chances are pretty much shot. No one’s getting jobs like they used too.

Advice to the 50 year old guy: Please don’t waste your money going back to school in design. If they don’t get you with the age factor there will probably some other weak excuse. I’ve heard the following from friends:

-Too old
-Not trainable
-To many family dependants
-Having a baby will kill your career
-Bad medical insurance risk
-Outdated designer
-No software skills
-No real references

Sadly these people are in their 30’s. Yikes!!!

appreciate the feedback - that in itself makes the world a friendlier place. you could have all ignored me… i am in a situation where i have to start all over - become a student again and this time around use what experience i have mustered to journey on. still,… its daunting when the desire is still in the twenties and the reflection in the mirror, no matter how cool, is what my dad looked like when i first graduated. i gues that needs to be overcome…


I have to argree with Guest1’s observations because they mirror my own experience. At fifty-four I am now an apprentice learning how to operate heavy equipment. I was out of the ‘corporate staff loop’ for a number of years while I tried to be an ID consultant on my own and ran square into the “software update expense /on-going training” wall.

I would like to believe that the thirty+ years experience I have in design and manufacturing might be attractive to a company, but now, in these here United States; age, train-ability, corporate willing-ness to expend resources on employee training, family dependants, increased medical insurance risk, software skills (most employers are looking for 6000 hour as a minimum), and no references, are a tough nut for ‘experienced’ (read;older) job candidates to crack.

If I may suggest, at your (our) age, if you are sure that ID is something that you NEED to do, then consider a MINOR in Industrial Design and a MAJOR in business. If you already possess a Bachelor’s Degree you might be able to parlay it into an MBA. For two reasons; you may not have what it takes to produce design in a youth-oriented culture, but your experience in the real world would suit you well to the BUSINESS of design and the salary levels might be more suitable for your situation in life.

You mention that you are, “in a situation where (you) have to start all over.” At fifty, we can’t really start ‘all over’ there are too many obligations in our lives. As previously stated here, the salary of an ‘entry-level’ designer is not much, management expectations are high, overtime is an understood, and I suspect that breathing foam dust, and existing on Doritos and cold cans of cream-of-chicken soup for a few years (at which point you are at age 55-56) might not be what you though you were buying into.

And you WILL be buying into it. Design education (not to mention project material expense) isn’t cheap.

If I still harbor a dream of returning to the design field it might remotely be by utiilizing my new training to work for a company like John Deere, or Caterpillar - the design of their equipment desperately needs the help of experienced users.

Just my $.02.

damn… i started id after i got a bs in mechanical engineering… i got my first job a few years ago when i was 34… im a male asian if that means anything…

i worked my ass off, dont know anything about age thing, i dont see it or feel it personally…

now working fully and totally happy… its what i always wanted…

ps… pay is not the best but its ok and i didnt do id for the money anyway…

its da passion

Man if I were you, I would go for it!, I am in my 40s an starting to go to school for ID. you got to do it for yourself, belive in yourself. it is scary,but if is you dream then go for it. work hard in school an do it! I wish you the best.

I can’t say to definitely go for it or not, because at 39 years old, I am about to graduate in may and am worried about these same issues. I can say that any excuses about software, dated design, etc, are bunk because you will be getting the same education as everyone else in your class. You also will have a huge advantage over other students when it comes to your life experience. There are many times when I am helping other students with issues that seem common sense to me, but that is just because of my life experience. Whatever you have been doing for the last 50 years will ultimately give you one type of advantage over younger students. You will be putting in long hours through school and probably at your first workplace, so be prepared for the stress of producing your best work under the gun.

Good luck!

Definitely pursue design if that’s what you’re passionate about!

One piece of advice I would give you is that if there is any way to use education in ID, or other creative discipline to build upon your existing skills or experience, do it. You will find fewer obstacles in your way. You may even be more desirable than other job candidates if you do.

For most of us, it turns out to be less about the specific design field (ID in your case). We really just want to create, to design beautiful things. There are so many fields out there that really are about designing, even though they don’t use that word.

Hopefully you can make industrial design work out for yourself, but take a look a little broader too. Maybe there’s some other design or creative field that could be a “next career step” instead of “starting over”. I’m guessing you’ll find more success that way.

Either way, keep pursuing the work that inspires you.

i wouldn’t do it. you’re as old as my dad. there’s no way u can compete.

If you feel it from your heart and not because you want to make tons of money, then go for it. But be ready for all nighter, no weekends and no social life until you graduate.

I got my MID at age 35. 6-1/2 yrs of part- time grad school while working full-time as ID. Decided to quit to do my own design and freelance to have finances coming in (I have more than 8yrs experience in ID). My manufacturer backed out, lost my regular freelance work at age 40 = no more regular money coming in. My projects are on hold until I get another regular freelance work but at these times it’s difficult. Just finished solidworks class so I can get my foot in the door.

At the moment, I do events photography to have a little income. Regrets? it crossed my mind many times but always came to the conclusion that I learned a lot from those experiences including much hardships… so no regrets! why? It’s what I love to do…designing and creating my own.

Last word of advice, really, really think about why you want to go into ID…dig deep into your soul. That’s how I got myself into ID. Another thing is that if you have artistic abilities, it’ll be a bit easier going through school.

Good Luck!!

What do you all think about Interior Design? It’s similar to ID but more spacial. Maybe the 50 year old could get more bang for his education buck by going into Interior Design. I notice way more Interior Design jobs posted on the net that ID jobs. ID seems to be going the way of the Doo doo bird - straight to China and India. American compaies will do what they always have done; get the work done cheaper. People, they can do very similar work for $1.50 and hour and be happy at that salary. That’s half of half of half of half of what American’s ask for. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to hire someone from India or China for that rate. It’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to design for our culture.

im in my 30’s and have freelance job in business. I never been to school for ID but started working on it as a hobby. In two years, I began winning design competitions and am now signed with companies with my own products. I dont think age nor education is really a factor if you truly want to do it and as long as you enjoy it.
I do believe, money is a big factor. As long as you have enough savings, you don’t have to get a secondary job like I do.
Also, try entering competitions as it gave me opportunities beyond my expectations. Good luck!