what skill to hone to become a designer

Hi I just found out about this website and just registered.
Just to let you know, I’m completely ignorant as to what it takes to be an industrial designer.
I loved to draw since I was a little kid and now I want to pursue my dream although it’s a bit late as a designer.
It’s going to be a few years before I can set my foot on any design education field and I do not want to waste time
just waiting for the school.

So what kind of skills do I need to hone first?
I was thinking about sketching but what kind of sketching? Humans? objects? copying magazines?

  1. Generating 10s, 100s, 1000s of ideas to solve a problem.

  2. Communicating those ideas. Sketching is the quickest. Models are best for end user evaluation.

you’ll get some better answers from the more seasoned folks on here, but in the short term…

design sketching is it’s own style. grab a couple books (see below) on it and try to copy the works in them. Perhaps the most important part involved is perspective, but there are other little things like call-outs and detail that you’ll pick up along the way. Also, remember that sketching is only one part of the design process. you’ll need other skills, but sketching is a good place to start.

This is a good book that has contribution from some of the posters here at core:

This is the book that my beginning sketch class used:

I always found this PDF, “The Ideal Junior Industrial Designer”, a really good reference of what current designers look for in junior designers, may help you organize your priorities.

http://industrial.design.iastate.edu/231/files/2011/08/idealjuniorid2010.pdf (not the original source, just found it quickly.)

thank you all so much for the valuable replies and info! i appreciate it :slight_smile:

Sketching is important but it’s only one of the many tools you need to be a good designer. Sketching allows you to explore ideas fast and effectively and then communicate those ideas with those around you. Without the ideas and understanding of the problem the sketches are just fancy pictures that mean nothing.

Have a curiosity about everything around you, pick anything and everything up and try and work out how you think it’s made. Try and understand why it’s made the way it is. Why have they used that material? Why have they added a colour break? Why have they made it that shape?

Understanding how other products are made will help spark your imagination when you’re sketching your own products. You’ll be able to draw on your observations of the things around you and apply your findings to solving the design briefs in front of you.

Best of luck.

The short answer is there are no short answers.

It comes down to what sort of designer do you want to be, and what would you like to design?

There are some basic skills (in my opinion) that any designer should have, but from there, your focus area will define other skills you will need to have - i.e. consumer products, vs. medical devices, vs. transportation, vs. furniture, vs. aerospace, etc.

From a foundation point, here’s what I think every designer needs - not in order;

  • Ability to communicate ideas visually (sketching, drawing)
  • Ability to communicate ideas verbally
  • Knowledge about processes, materials, applications, etc. to make something
  • Understanding and APPRECIATION for other, collaborative disciplines - engineering, marketing, manufacturing, research, etc. Learn their ‘needs’, what they value, and how they communicate. It will help you collaborate with them.
  • A deep desire to understand and be an advocate for the user. All of them. All of their individual needs - they are all opportunities to create something marvelous.
  • Know how to make something - models, prototypes, samples. Learn how to drop the pencil/pen quickly and get really good at making things with your hands. Don’t just stick to 2D work - get proficient at making things real.
  • Thirst for knowledge. Look, see, touch, explore, ask, and don’t stop learning…

After that (and I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of things) there are a lot of tools / knowledge / areas of focus that will hone your skills to fit a desired area, but the above is a good place to start in my opinion.

  • David

I think the top two are good design and good sketching. You need to be able to design ‘good’ things (beautiful, functional, innovative, economical) and you need to be able to communicate your vision through sketching. Some are amazing at one and decent at the other, but you have to be proficient at both.

I’ve always liked how Steven King addressed this question for writers:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

In addition to sketching, work to improve other communication skills: writing, speaking, listening.

That nicely translates to design.

The most important skill is to learn to “read” objects as though they were books. Each object has a story on how it was made, why, by whom, for what purpose, and the role it fills in the life of it’s user. That is the way I look at everything, for good or bad.

Sketching is part of the “writing” side of the equation. Make a lot as well.

Nicely put Shaw.

I always say the most important thing is to have a healthy level if dissatisfaction. You have to be able to look at something, even a very good thing, pick it apart and develop ideas for how to make it better.

Be a solution finder.

Nice discussion, I agree with all of the above.

Let me add 2 things:

  • Industrial designers are getting more and more involved in the development of intelligent interactive products. They can become the key persons to make that coupling from high technology to the end user in a meaningful way that fits the intended user experience. Learn about things like interaction design and artificial intelligence, understand the user well, and learn to create physical models that already embed some interactivity, and you may come up with the key idea that integrates everything beautifully and noone else could have come up with.
  • Learning to sketch is one thing, but also learn to throw them away very quickly :wink:


  • Learning to sketch is one thing, but also learn to throw them away very quickly

Put another way, don’t fall in love with your sketches; there are plenty more where that one came from.

But paper is expensive, so draw on both sides before you throw it away* … … . :wink:

  • Advice from my grandfather.

I know it’s not really a skill and a bit obvious, but I’d say the most important thing to have is passion and determination. Set yourself design challenges, post your work for feedback here on core and don’t worry if the feedback you get is not as positive as you’d like, as long as its constructive, take it, learn from it and just be determined to be better next time.

Set yourself design challenges, post your work for feedback here on core and don’t worry if the feedback you get is not as positive as you’d like, as long as its constructive, take it, learn from it and just be determined to be better next time.

I would add, try not to take constructive criticism personally. It’s hard to do when you’ve put a lot of effort into something.

I’m with Lew.

Thick skin, hearty but diminutive ego. Will travel.

I think the most important thing by far is an excess of creativity, being able to problem solve, a complete love for design and most importantly being able to communicate your ideas in the most appropriate way. This can be through drawing, model making, speaker etc. However a being able to draw well is only useful if you are drawing an idea that is great.

Sales, sales and sales. The best design projects are the result of the designer being able to sell themselves or their idea. I wish I had concentrated a lot more on this.

Lots of good advice here given already.
I thought I add a quote by Ira Glass that I thought was very on point, for everyone starting out, but especially for the creative professions.

nice quote Bepster.