This is the Era of the Corporate Design Group

I wanted to start this discussion. I do believe the following after 7 years in design. But I’m hoping for fruitful, if not ‘agressive’ debate.

My statement:

Why do I say that? Well I guess it depends on what you define as good design work. However:

  1. Corporate design groups are sucking up some of the hottest talent in the field.
  2. While many consultancies still win awards, do you see most of these designs on the shelves? The corporate groups are actually bringing design to the masses ie(motorola, apple, eva solo, etc).
  3. Manufacturing and materials are changing rapidly and provides many opportunities . The corporate designer is setup to deal with this due to more direct access to large manufacturing bases.
  4. The corporate designer is setup to deal with the ugly politics of getting a good design out the door. Many consultancies hand that great design to the client and watch it disappear in the sea of beaurocracy.

Let the debate begin!

a lot of this seems to be true in my experience with both consulting and working corporate. It seems like more and more corporations are establishing great teams, and those teams want to keep the good projects in house, naturally.

After the dot-bomb, many designers retreated to corporate gigs for shelter. But surprisingly, they’re not leaving. Corporations have come to realize that differentiation by design is a strategic priority rather than a tactical convenience.

I started this thread because in this section I noticed a lot of students going for the consulting jobs. I’ve worked in some big name consultancies (who shall remane nameless) and now work corporate. I’ve been far more impressed with the corporate talent.

I actually came to learn something different from what the consulting offices taught me. I have definately learned a lot I couldn’t find in small firms. I also found a bigger paycheck, nice bonus. But what I was most impressed at was the amount of talent around me, whether form monkey, or design salesperson, they were there; everyone adding their piece to the game.

So my hope is that students pick up on this, and think about getting into hot corporate design groups.

But I have to say, in a consulting office you do more traditional design work. At corporate, I find sketching and refinement of designs make up 15% of my work. The rest is solving issues and driving it through the teams I work within. Taking a licking and giving others a licking. I think this is a critical skill if designers what their stuff made the way they envisioned it. thanks for the thoughts but I was hoping for more dissention, given what I find on the threads.

I do think it is a good idea for a student to start at a consultancy for a number of reasons:

1_ you get to work on a wider array of projects, getting a little bit of knowledge in all different product types (if its a good place)

2_ you get to network with designers at all kinds of corporations

3_ you quickly build your skills

4_ when you go corporate you a appreciate the beni’s and structure (I know people that went corporate right out of school, and a few don’t know how good they have it)

5_ when you go corporate you know how to get stuff done vs waiting for the marketing guys to kick you info, or relying on the corporate print center or whatever.

Sorry I couldn’t disagree more…

Okay, if you’re looking for opposing views… What I could say is that for younger designers, you can’t beat the variety of projects that you get in a consultancy. It’s almost like how it is in design school, just kicked up a notch. To get that type of experience early is very valuable, maybe not necessary if you have one specific area you want to specialize in early, but for the typical “able to do everything” id’er, pretty good experience to have. You’ll nail down your “basic skills” to a new level and you’ll get a broad range of knowledge about different types of projects. I think it’s a perfect next step for right after school while you’re still feeling out your options/directions and for fine tuning your technical skills to a professional level.

I went straight into corporate right out of school and it actually limited me, guess it all depends on what type of stuff you’re doing. I didn’t do consulting work until after 5 years of corporate and due to my limited experience with the variety of pj’s and presentation needs of consultancies (all-star sketching and renderings, etc.) I was almost seen as entry level since you don’t typically need or use some of those presentation skills to the level that you do in consultancies. So I didn’t have those “basic” skills developed to the level as a typical consultant designer with 5 yrs exp since I rarely had to go past thumbnails and illustrator lineart, the rest was handing off to others, and communicating with china to make sure samples came out according to design intent.

Like someone said, you design 15% coorp, the rest is making it happen correctly. I think both have their strengths and weaknesses but if I could do it over I would’ve went consultancy first to get my skills to be topnotch and broad wealth of knowledge, then go corp if I found one special area I wanted to focus in.

I don’t know if that’s why kids nowadays do it, possibly because consultancies are more in the spotlight for design, so they’re easier to find. When I first started, I wouldn’t have known where to even find info on the design depts of corps but you’re closer to the source hunting down design firms. Maybe that’s a possible reason why.

You guys raise great points. Especially about variety of projects. I started at consultancies. The 60 hours+ per week of doing all design work (with occasional client presentation) has been good for my skills. I also agree with your point YO that consultancies are a great place to start, especially when salary is not too key (no kids, sports cars, houses, etc).

Though, I do have to disagree with point #5, YO. I rarely wait for marketing to download a project. I do a lot of spec pitches in the corporatation I work for. But the fact that I do that probably is due to my long hours in consultancies. I also try to tell them how it should be done. I find if I give them the easy answer, according to their own mental framework, they’ll take it. Of course, that may speak to the level of marketing people I work with. It’s nice to be needed.

However, Junior designers rarely have the spirit to do that type of work, especially when they are worried about the level of rendering or modeling they are putting out.

Thanks for your thoughts guys.

imo niether corporate, nor consulting or freelance are the best model for design.

That’s exactly my point. Most of the designers I know who have gone through the consulting ringer push their marketing people now that hey have the ability to affect change within a corporation but are used to thinking independently.

UFO is right, we forgot to mention the living at home with mom and dad while doing some 3d modeling genre of “experience”

I don’t think the guy was talking about the best model for design. Just in terms of what directions new kids coming out of school go towards with no real project experience. Talking about their best options for what directions are the best alternatives for them right out of school.

For professionals, people with experience, etc…that’s another set of options, I think that’s the train of thought you’re heading towards.

oh, ok. in that case i think which ever pays more. the environment is not important short term if you are insulated.

Your initial premise is too wide a generalization and possibly reflects your own particular experience because no particular environment necessarily harbours or naturally breeds more talent than the other. There’s no fast rule on talent sources but we can talk at length about the type of firms devoted to design with good long term survival prospects. In this sense, yes, corporate departments win out as so many consulting firms have withered out and died (or dramatically downsized) over, say, the past decade.

I still believe the spontaneity, variety and casualness of a consulting office is a better start for most design students to learn the ropes of this profession and contract business in general. Corporate will likely end up a better mortgage payer long term but the office politics and long drawn process can be very weary on creative types. As for corporate offices bursting at the seams with undiscovered design talent of historic proportions, give me a break. Even if that were true, this is where design ideas must pass muster with dozens of bureaucratic fat layers of notoriously narrow vision before making it out. And by the time any decent ideas clear the red tape, marketing and sales “experts” finally await them. I’ve never seen a WORSE way to develop new products than in large corporate offices where designers were said to be at “the core” but then realized the fruit they inhabited was a walnut.

By and large, those I worked with in large firms were safer and more conventional thinkers than the consulting types, let alone the freelancers. It all hangs on how you personally define talent in this field, really. And your definition, as mine, is not universal.

what if you are fresh out of school and are hired to be in a corporate design team but you are the first and only designer that the company has ever hired?

what happens then?

say a designer is pretty much fresh out of school and gets a job in a company that wants to set up a design team.
firstly considering the whole initial obstacle of setting up the infrastructure, getting the required software, convincing the boss to PAY for the equipment,…
so after about 6 months, everything has been done…and the designer is only just starting to learn the relevant software (due to delays in purchase of software)
what happens now?

more often than not he gets discouraged and he is ready to throw in the towel and seek greener pastures elsewhere with a complete career change…i.e…no more industrial design…EVER.(the pay is better in other industries anyway)

if a fresh grad finds himself in this situation, what should he do?
because everything seems to be going all to slow esp in the first few starting months.

I’m sure this is a very common problem faced by many designers…(or is it??)

would like to hear the views from your perspectives.
thanks guys.

I’ve heard of this happening and it usually doesn’t seem to end well. Get out and give ID another shot somewhere where you can have some mentors within the company, be it a consulting group or big corp. A corporation that is trying to set up a design department and hires a student has no idea of how to work with design and are probably not ready for it and looking to make the smallest investment possible.

Hi Yo: Thanks for the reply. I was actually describing my current predicament. haha. people have been telling me to hold on to this job.

giving ID another shot…

does it mean finding a position in another bigger company/consultancy even though its a different position like being a research analyst in an industrial design team? even a position like that is worth moving out of the corporation?

A corporation that is trying to set up a design department and hires a student has no idea of how to work with design and are probably not ready for it and looking to make the smallest investment possible.

this is pretty true i think. from what i’m seeing anyway.
projects go out of my hands and i don’t see them come back. God knows what happens to them anyway.

I’m all ready to leave. but should i hold on until something better comes up?

i don’t think i have much to offer in my portfolio even after these 6 months of working in this company.
the main problem is funding and R & D expertise.
oh. and design expertise as well.
currently product design seems to be secondary to the main function of the team which is MARKETING current OEM products out of the factory.

Fresh out of school you’re still in learning phase, I wouldn’t advise being in a position where you do it all without learning from others first. I agree with Yo’s assesment. Consider your first few years out as grad school where you’re now being taught how to be a professional designer. You should learn that from superiors first, what you learned in school most likely wouldn’t prepare you enough to be the sole designer or start your own firm, etc…

exactly Skinny

It is definitely easier to find a job when you already have one. Search while you are working. It will be easier. This is not a wasted experience, you have learned what you need, and got a glimpse into how many companies work… re-branding existing OEM products and throwing them at Walmart or whatever. Scary but true.

I’m not sure where you expertise lie or what your long term goals are, but I would recommend going for a straight up design job, and seeing if you like it an what you will learn, it doesn’t have to be a big place, just a place with design leadership and mentors. It took me 6 months to land my first good job, and it was at a small firm with great clientele, down to earth partners, and people that taught me the ropes and I am still close with.

Hey Yo and Skinny,
Thanks for this advice

it doesn’t have to be a big place, just a place with design leadership and mentors.

This is ONE HUGE ISSUE that I’ve been having gripes about. Design leadership. I was even considering proposing for my boss to hire a design manager or a senior designer (but chances of that happening is akin to winning the lottery.)

True that i have learnt quite a lot the past 6 months…but its everything except proper ID skills which i am kinda picking up again now. I worked previously in events/exhibition design but realised that wasn’t for me (event though i learnt a shitload of stuff from that job too). So to date, I’ve been out of school for about a year and a few months. I’m wondering if I took too long a time or if i just rushed into finding a design job, period.

I would defnitely want to get a straight up ID job if i could. but the drawback is that i am lacking in the software skills area. need to boost my portfolio now. we’ve got alias in the office and i’ve just kinda picked up the basics. boy its an uphill struggle with that one (considering i am familiar with Solidworks).

If i am offered a design position in a good firm other than one as a straight up ID-er, should i take it on? Thats what i’m thinking. because lots of consultancies and companies seem to be making the move into design research, trends research, analysis etc.

Yes design leadership is certainly a bonus.

I’m currently the only Industrial design & creative in the company I work for. I really miss other designers been around and senior designers. The directors of the company are fairly enthusiastic but there not from the design field and often I get stuck in the middle between them. I have to make sure I push my self to progress forward.

While I was at a small consultancy during my placement year I did get the full variety of project senior designers to question and learn from their past experiences. There was one major flaw I got made redundant after 6 weeks and had to work the rest of the 5 months for free. Often like others have mentioned you don’t see where the work goes you had it over to the client and that’s it. To add to this all the work is confidential so you don’t get anything for your portfolio….in the short term

The good thing about being the sole designer working in-house that I pretty much get to develop the whole product and it gets out in the market fairly quick. So quick in fact that the sales guys have already sold it before it’s even left my sketch book. And having to deal with Sales/R&D/Directors/customers/production…etc is a worthwhile experience though is certainly trying at times, but hey that’s business.

lol- I understand that issue with speed. Sometimes it barely leaves your sketchbook and a few weeks later, back comes a tooled part for finish speccing.