What is the best way to break into product design?

I’m currently working in an unrelated field (mental health) but my real interest is in product design. What would be the fastest and most effective way to break into product design? I’m mostly interested in creating my own consumer products rather than working as a “designer” in a firm, etc. I’m already in the process of teaching myself how to use SolidWorks and have had decent success designing accessories. Thanks a lot.

Ambitious plan. The answer, just do it. I would suggest getting as much experience as possible with as little investment as possible in tooling etc. Companies like Shapeways can print your designs one off, and you or other can test and or sell the designs in the marketplace. For personal plans such as yours, there will be more services available to let you produce without the hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling that many mass production products require.

There is naturally a lot to design and manufacturing that you are going to have to learn. If you get in light and get feedback and can grow, it is possible to build a designer skill set on your own over the course of ten or fifteen or more years.

Can you define "“mostly interested in creating my own consumer products”?

A designer can do that alone, sure…but it usually takes a team. Also, when you say Design…do you want to design the product, or the company?

If you’re thinking that you will design a product, manufacture it, advertise it, sell it and then rinse and repeat…you might want to rethink your “plan”.

If you’re more inclined to come up with the next killer product and design the business to make your millions, then retire on an island in the Caribbean…then you should just hire a company to design your product while you hustle it.

Why is it not possible to “design a product, manufacture it, advertise it, sell it and then rinse and repeat”? Especially now, with the help of Kickstarter and similar sites to raise the necessary funding. What part of that isn’t doable, especially for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset?

Do you have experience in product development? Coming up with a concept is only the beginning of the process. Product development is best done through a team of people with expertise in multiple fields with years of experience. It may be easier to fund projects these days, but you still need the experience and knowledge to know what to do with that money.

Even if you are a Product Designer, you still rely on a team to complete the job. What is really your goal? Is it trying to visually communicate? Trying to save costs by doing CAD yourself? Designing well-thought out and complete projects that people not only use, but appreciate?

Most designers are trained in many areas from research, sketching, CAD, and making various forms of prototypes. Every project or job requires different skills to execute a successful design, and I think we find our own strengths within that. Best advice I can give without really knowing your reasoning is that you should start sketching and be involved in group critiques. These things will help you communicate ideas and understand what makes good design.