Trying to get into Product/Industrial/Innovation Design

Hi everyone,

I to graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and started to work in the plumbing/fire protection field but realized that it wasn’t for me. I noticed that a lot of people have posted about transitioning from mechanical engineering to a product designer. This field interests me and I can’t say for sure that this is what I want to do, because I am like most other 24 year old’s that do not know what they want to do, but I would like to give it a shot. Besides being a designer in the product/innovation/industrial design field, what else can someone apply for with my degree?

also, I have seen that some people recommended a mechanical engineer to apply to Industrial Design Consultancies instead of Industrial Design Firms. aren’t these the same thing? if not, can anyone give an example of each company?

Also, does anyone know of any job openings and companies in NYC?

Thanks in advance for the help.

Hello Hotrodz and welcome to the board. Thanks for doing a little research into topics on the forum before posting!

What others have recommended to MEs looking to get into a more creative job is to try to apply to work at design firms / consultancies (I consider them the same, maybe scale???) as a staff ME. You would be applying for an engineering position but working with designers in a team. You get the benefit of a diverse, fast paced environment and get to be in on the ground level with designers creating products and services. This all depends on your skills. In my experience, design firms may lean towards area of design (consumer electronics, medical, shoes, etc) and the engineers on staff have broad generalist abilities but also align with the firms competencies.

To be clear, IMO you will not land a job as an industrial designer with a mechanical engineering degree unless you have an awesome design portfolio to go along side it. If you want to work as a designer and not an engineer among designers, you may need to go back to school for a second degree. With that, are you a talented artist as well? Do you have any creative or design experience? Once again, it all depends on YOUR abilities and interests! What do you want to do?

Thanks for the welcoming bennybtl.

Since I am not entirely sure as to what I want to do for a career I figured that I would want to try to get into this field when I found out about it. I am not saying I want to be and engineer or a designer, because really I don’t know what I want to do except that whatever I do has to be interesting, fun and creative. And those are the qualities that seem to stand out in my mind when I think about the product design field, but I could be wrong since those are just my thoughts.

So I know I asked what could I do in this field with my ME degree, but I guess I am also looking to do something that might not even need that degree.

When you mentioned working as a staff engineer at a company, are there any position titles that come to mind? Whenever I search for jobs at company websites, nothing jumps out at me as being an engineering job.

Also, would a product management job in one of these companies be a good fit as well?

and do you know of any sites or places to search for these jobs?

As for being a talented artist, well no, not at all. The only things I have designed were plumbing and fire protection plans for different projects at my last job and college engineering projects such as a Mini Baja Race Car which I no longer have any of my school work for.

Sorry for going on and on.

Here’s an example of an engineer position at a design firm:

I think you may run into the problem of needing experience, more than it sounds like you have. Product managers at companies tend to be experienced designers, engineers or marketing people that have “moved up,” not really entry level. If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me :blush:

I am not saying I want to be and engineer or a designer, because really I don’t know what I want to do except that whatever I do has to be interesting, fun and creative. And those are the qualities that seem to stand out in my mind when I think about the product design field, but I could be wrong since those are just my thoughts.

No you’re right, but you’ll need the education and/or the skills to get your foot in the door, especially now with jobs so scarce and many talented, hungry creatives roaming the streets in packs (I’ve seen them!!!) The problem with interesting, fun and creative jobs is that 1)fun is relative and 2)everyone wants them!

Otherwise you have make it yourself: go freelance, design furniture, etc. but that can be even more difficult to turn into a career.

I would say if you don’t have a lot of natural creative and artistic ability it might be tough to get a designer position. However, if you have a really strong understanding of Pro/E, Solidworks or Alias, you will be able to get in the door somewhere and your career path can evolve. I think the line between designer and engineer is fading a bit, as more designers use 3D programs to prove form and more engineers recognize the value of good design.

In other words, if you are a designer with some engineering know how or an engineer with some design skills it will make you more valuble overall.

My best advice would be to work on the best possible portfolio you can make, and keep an open mind when it comes to job opportunities. Nothing is ever permanent.

Thank you guys for your help and quick responses!

Out of curiosity, what do you two do for a living, if you don’t mind me asking? I ask this of everyone I meet in hopes of finding something that interests me.

In current econimic environment, one option is to work through temp/placement agency to put you in touch with different companies, industries, on a contract to contract basis. Companies may be reluctant to hire on full-time right now, so look to design/engineering placement agencies to fill resource needs. Aside of gaining better perspective of various industries, you would also gain valuable experience. Most industrial design firms do have mechanical engineering resources. CAD skills would be a must.
Here is a resource to assist with your search and may help with alternate positions available:
You should probably search by (mechanical) design engineer:
Think about what type of industry (consumer, interior, fashion, aerospace, medical…), product, or service you have a passion for. The Design Firm route may prove difficult without significant experience or connections.

I agree with everything 51 said, good advice.

I’m an industrial designer at a design firm, I have a BFA in ID and 5 years experience. :wink:

Man, there are a lot of these types of posts. I’m glad so many ME’s are interested in design. A lot of people in general are interested in design. I think it is important to first ask yourself the question, are you a design connoisseur, or a designer?

I’m defining a connoisseur as someone interested in design. Knowledgeable and passionate, but not a creative. A supporter, possibly a collaborator.

I’m defining a designer as a creative mind applied to product. Most designers were designers long before their first job by this definition.

If you are not sure, you are probably a connoisseur. Design takes a lot of will and passion, it is not really a “dip your toe in and try it out” kind of thing.

I’m the Design Director for a small furniture and lighting company. 4th year.

Yo said it. I have always been a designer in one sense or another. I do not have a degree but I was an Art Director for a few marketing companies before switching to ID. It takes a lot of creative thinking to be good at design. It helps if you have some artistic ability too.