Transitioning back into design, maximize employability?

Hello fellow members, this is my first post here. I look forward to meeting all of you :slight_smile:

I’m looking for some advice regarding my transition back into design. When I say “back”, what I really mean is that I have never been strictly employed as a designer. I’ll spare you my life story, but if this is the right place to ask this I’d like to chat – it would be a privilege to hear what some of you can tell me.

EDIT: I realise that I have not actually posed a question :unamused: So here is the long version:
On the 3rd year of my ID degree, I deferred my course and signed a 6 year contract to work for the Navy as an electronics technician. After gaining some qualifications in electronics, I managed to find my way into a small graphics cell where we have a Trotec laser, CNC router and Roland large format printer. I’ve since finished my degree and am now eagerly up-skilling in anticipation of leaving the Navy for a career in ID.

Working there, I’ve managed to get much better working with SolidWorks (currently focusing on bottom-up design methods for the purpose of integration of seamless integration of components), and run small projects that keep my skills working with the CNC machinery we have at work. My goal is to be as employable as possible before February 2016.

This brings me to my question: In your opinion, what are my chances of finding a full-time job in ID and what do I need to do to maximize my employability in ID?


Hello and welcome. Nice introduction.

You will have a better chance and wider list of opportunities with a design or aesthetic focused portfolio. However there are companies that need to perform the design functions in a more technical or engineering environment. One example is the company I used to work for - Precor - which manufactures fitness equipment. There was a mix of domestic and foreign sourced production but all of the R&D was done on-site. A lot of the crucial work could be considered ‘industrial design’ but didn’t involve marker renderings or brand-building activities. Instead a few of the designers were constantly using the CNC machinery and metal and woodworking tools to quickly work iteratively in full scale with 50% functionality.

The Teague office on-site at Boeing employs both technical designers (highly proficient in SolidWorks, CATIA, and the databases that catalog parts for those programs) and more traditional industrial designers doing form, color, materials.

So - your chances are good, but you need to stay focused on the iterative and creative design problem solving side of your skills and talents. Its good that you have a realistic window for finding a job too.

Thanks slippyfish, some really helpful info there. So it seems my portfolio would be heavily weighted towards technical projects. I agree, it’s logical that there’s going to be more opportunities if I open up to creative projects. While I love a technical challenge and love to get totally immersed in technical thinking, I get the same kick out of sketching and creative tasks.

So the next question is, should I start sketching and entering competitions, or is there a better way to up-skill? I guess the real question is, what are employers looking for when they are selecting prospective employees? Are there specific things to know or is it primarily general knowledge and experience?

The good news is that this forum is a paradise for anyone looking to get a leg up in the industry. I’m surprised at how thriving this small community is! Cant believe I didnt join in sooner!

Thanks again

Every place is going to be looking for something different from a designer. For instance in my current role I’d want someone with experience in expressing and developing the 3D aspects of a client’s brand guidelines, or helping to craft that language. By contrast in my previous job we emphasized experience with manufacturing, with ‘hard’ product design, materials, and ergonomics.

Showing you can sketch is helpful. Going from ‘zero’ sketch ability to ‘passable’ will be good but if its not your natural facility I wouldn’t want someone to flog a dead horse. It happens to be the quickest way to communicate an idea, and actually aids thinking, but an alternative is being able to ‘sketch’ with materials - a plain example is being able to carve stuff from foam or wood or paper or anything else malleable. Another good book to check out is “Sketching User Experiences” by Bill Buxton, that describes all kinds of ways to quickly prototype an idea (in the way that a sketch is a ‘prototype’…)

You can enter competitions if that floats your boat, and might be a fun way to progress. Basic tutorials and overviews like the excellent books from the Umea students - Learning Curves, and Design Sketching - will provide inspiration and education.

I’ll take a look at those books, thanks!

Following your advice I’ll definitely be stepping up my game with sketching. While I was never close to being a sketching god, I had some reasonable skill. Now it’s been about 5 years since I last sketched, so it’s going to be humbling… Last night I had a crack and it looks like I’m back to first year level sketching. All of the higher concepts are gone :frowning:

Meanwhile Im doing my best to keep active with other skill sets. I’m currently negotiating a deal with a major RC heli manufacturer who potentially wants to use a canopy design I did on Wednesday night. Fingers crossed!

I’m really hopeful that this will work out, but in the mean time I’ll keep your advice in the front of my mind! Thanks so much for your helpful words.