What ID entails..

I’m a Junior in highschool, so I will begin my college search pretty soon. While trying to find potential fields to study, industrial design piqued my interest. I like to consider myself creative, and I am constantly thinking. I have a bunch of interests, and I am also thinking of my own designs of things related to these interests. For example, when I started playing paintball, I thought of my own paintball gun designs and barrel designs. I am an avid skier and I always think of how I would design my skis if I had the oppurtunity. I always love looking at concept cars, not necessarily for the tech specs, but rather how the exterior and interior look. In school, i constantly sketch, usually basic designs, all around my notebook. So naturally, industrial design seemed appealing to me.

But, there’s a dillemma. I’ve never really pursued art. I am not that great at drawing. I mean, I can express my ideas with pictures, but I can’t figure draw, and I can’t exactly shade to make pictures look realistic. The only prior experience with art I have is from some basic art classes in grammer school. I really have no portfolio to speak of, and if I had to make one, all I’d know how to do is pen and ink, pastel, or scratchboard. I don’t know if I would be able to make the jump to an art school with this talent/skill/experience or whatever.

So i guess my question is, what would being an ID student entail? Would, in your opinion, I be at a disadvantage going into an ID program? Also, what could I do to a.) better prepare myself, or b.) find out if this is really the direction I want to take my education in.

Thanks for any help in advance.

I was king of in the same boat. I took mostly technical drawing and drafting classes in highschool because that is what I thought ID was about (they did help down the road). In my senior year I realized I needed an art portfolio to get into a good design program I started taking art classes my first semester. Luckily I had a great teacher who helped me prepare a portfolio that showed my basic skills and interests.

With some hard work you’ll be fine. It is good practice for once you enter your ID major, the good schools tend to be pretty rigorous.

My advice would be to surf around the portfolios on coroflot.com and cardesignnews.com and see if that is where you want to be in like 5-6 years.


Do you have the option of taking art classes at your nearest junior college? I’ve noticed a large number of high school students taking advantage of cheap, good quality art prep classes in our cities’ two JC art programs… they even have a portfolio review creation/review class available. You’ll get valuable drawing time and rack up credits towards your degree, should you decide to pursue.

Good luck!

ID is a broad field, and some people focus more on styling, or human factors, or engineering, or what have you. Different schools emphasize different aspects of the field. A BFA from an ID program within an art school will prepare you differently than a BS program within a research university. In my field (graphic design), there are the people who design cool posters and the people who design clear charts for annual reports, and everyone in between. ID is the same way. The field needs people of different abilities and with different skill sets. Some people solve problems, while others deal more with look and feel (I’m generalizing here, for the sake of making a point).

That said, you still have to be at least competent in drawing, and drawing from observation is a basic ability you need to work on. If your high school doesn’t offer the classes, try a Saturday or after-school program at a local art school or museum.

I would also suggest visiting different schools and talking to students to get a better sense of the kinds of experiences you can expect. You can also try to meet designers at different kinds of firms. They may even let you shadow them for a short time, so that you can see what a typical day entails.

I drifted into ID by accident but started out the same as you. I took drafting classes in school and worked on building sets for the theatre department. After that I thought I might want to go into architecture but decided against it as I didn’t like math and didn’t want to take more of it.

I ended up searching for graphic design programs but because I didn’t have an art portfolio my choices were limited. In hindsight I wish I would have busted my ass to get a portfolio together so I could go to U of Cincinnati DAAP or another solid design school. Instead I went to a state school where I did graphics for a year and then bored out of my mind I switched to industrial.

Don’t get me wrong, the program was good and I learned a lot, but i really sold myself short by not having ANY art experience prior to starting school. I took a lot of crap for my design skills throughout school and presentations were torture. But by the end of the program I knew what I was doing and got some pretty good jobs. Recently I even got scouted by the firm of a former professor, never thought that would happen.

Since you’re a junior you have time to get a portfolio together and off to schools if you start NOW. Get yoursef enrolled in some community college classes and start working. I would suggest figure drawing as a good place to start, it will teach you to draw from observation, have better and faster drawing skills, and if you’re lucky the nude models will be attractive. Then do work on your own and just keep refining it. Look at design mags and websites for styles and examples of professional work. Ask YO!, he can guide you to some great tutorials.

Also try and get a hold of some basic design software like photoshop and illustrator. After you sign up for community college classes you might be able to get student educational versions cheap or if your parents can swing it have them buy you the adobe creative suite. Use them to improve and tweak your work, especially in photoshop, and make them into nice presentations for your portfolio. Look at coroflot.com for examples.

DON’T worry about getting things like CAD packages, 3D modeling and rendering software, and other things that people talk about endlessly here. You need to build basic skills first and get really comfortable with sketching and doing things by hand. If you start with all the software now it will turn into a crutch that you will depend on for everything.

Also, find the local art schools near you and start visiting. They will almost always have student work posted so you can get an idea of whats going on.
Then if you can ask the professors and students questions to see how they like the program and what they want to do. It will help you figure out what path to get on.

Great advice from everyone so far…

If those suggestions are all within your reach (college courses, community programs, a decent high school art department) I would highly suggest doing as much as you can, as you can never have too much experience.


If you don’t think you can put a solid 'folio together, and your resources are limited, there are many schools that don’t require a portfolio to gain admission…Cincinnati being one of them. You can get into DAAP with solid grades and test scores. I’m pretty sure a lot of the state college and universities that aren’t art/design-centric have less stringent portfolio requirements.

I know exactly where you’re coming from as I hadn’t taken many art classes in high school either, not even the aforementioned drafting curriculum, so there was no chance that I could have put together a well rounded portfolio of any kind.

You have lots of options! Best of luck!

Thank you so much for all your help. My Dad is going to Boston on a business trip soon, so I might tag along andl look into visiting The MA college of Art, to sort of get an idea what an art school and ID program is like. I think I’m also going to take art classes at a local art school. Unfortunately, my school offers absolutely no art classes, and I mean there’s nothing. No classes, not even any clubs. But I will see what I can do, and once again, thank you soo much for all of the help.

On the topic of drawing… I had absolutely no skill whatsoever a little over 1 year ago, and now I can safely say my rendering is more than adequate. What I did was start with some key books. I’m a HUGE book learner now, and never really enjoyed school (or books) much growing up. Now I read everything I can get my hands on. A few books to get you started in drawing for cheap (in the order I would recommend reading them):

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

How to Draw what you See

The Natural Way to Draw

Rapid Viz


Good luck. If you like reading, these should take you a long way from where you are today. Throughout this process you’ll learn to love the act of drawing… and actually take great pleasure in it. I just ended my 8-week course at a local college on life drawing, and that really rounded out my self-learning. Good luck!