April 27, 2007

How to become a product designer.

I recently found that I was getting Google Hits trying to find out how to become a product designer (Typ-Os Can be great in SEO). After looking online I saw that there isn’t really much advise out there to Students, or Anyone on What you have to do to become a Product Designer. So I will try summarize what I know in this post.

Step 1: Are you sure you want to design products?

I currently find that most BA product design students drop out of there first year of there degree because of the assumption that design is ‘an easy degree’. I am not sure where this idea comes from, but I think its because you are a “jack of all trades, master of none” that you can get away with being bad at lots of things. This isn’t really true, in reality you have to know about business, marketing, sales, engineering, material science, Art Design, Mechatronics, Electronics, Human factors, manufacturing, user experience, and a whole load of other stuff.

The definition of Product Designer is always changing, but basically we are “consumer bonder, we connect with engineers and consumers to create useful and well thought out products and services”

Step 2: Go to School.

There are many arguments about what the best product design school is. Most people will save Brunel, Loughborough, Bournemouth, Newcastle (Just because Jonathon Ive went there) and Middlsex. These are all great schools, and in the future I will hopefully plan to break down what each one has to offer. But in the end of the day you need to visit, meet the lectures, and make sure that the syllabus is being cons tally updated.

Step 3: Read, Visit, Geekout, Sketch, Absorb

The common is conception is that its all about doing stuff, practical stuff, as the literate would say. The truth is that as product design covers such a large range of subjects you have to read about design, design history, new design movements, design blogs and stay constantly up to date in this rapidly changing filed.

You will also have to become a geek, these are the programs that I know very well.

> Photoshop
> Illustataor
> Flash
> After Effects
> Premier Pro
> InDesign
> AutoCad
> Solidworks
> Alias StudioTools
> Excel (Maths and Calculations are very important)
> Web Skills (Dreamweaver, HTML, CSS, ASP, PHP, Flash)

What you also have to remember these are ONLY TOOLS, the first and most powerful tool is you pencil / pen, It is rare that I ever fire up and computer tool, without firing up my pencil / pen first. I would recommend saying that if you can’t think of idea on paper, you won’t be able to put it into CAD. There is nothing wrong with just being a CAD monkey and tackling problems in 3D space, you can even do 3D product design, that is all about CAD work. But keep in mind, you will be the CAD monkey, and not necessarily working on your own ideas, which may suite you down to the ground.

Step 4: Get experience
Try to get a degree that offers a years work experience. I’m currently working at a lighting design firm in Seattle, it is not only a great chance to work and actually get to make real stuff you get a good chance to develop your skills for your last year design project. It has given me the chance to further develop my portfolio, improve my reading and general design thinking.

If you can’t get a placement try to do as many design competitions as you can, jsut keep cranking them out. Even if you enter half finished bits of work, the experience will be great as this sort of rushed product is the bread and butter of most design consultancies.

While your a student i would recommend giving up your part time job, and just geeking out and learning the above programs. If and when you do need beer money try to get a job that will help with your career or at least give you more skills to expand your design business thinking. Its surprising how much you can learn about consumers working on the blunt end of sales, or about luxury products by working as silver service waiter.

Step 5: Get contacts.
Keep on networking, start small and just merge well with your class mates. You will learn the What?, Why?, When? from your lectures but you will find that pier group will teach you the ‘how’.

Look at everyone as a opportunity, everyone is a specialist in something. Reflect upon your own family, you might think that you have the most boring, bland family. The truth is, this is what the most of the population are like. These are “the consumers”, observe, ask and design for these people. These are the people who ultimately buy your products. Design for the people, the boring people.

> Get a Corflot profile, and a CarbonMade. These drive a lot of traffic to my site.

Step 6: Get a Job
So know you have finished University, you need to get a job now. I don’t really know what to recommend as I’m still a student. Just remember the best jobs are never advertised, use your network, publish online, do spec work, and just shamelessly self promote. Good work will always show its self, the job will follow your work.

Step 7: Make your Own Job. Freelance or you own Business.
Still no Job, Perhaps you just suck at being a product designer. (this is more than likly true) If so, go back, read, experience, observe and connect with manufactures to start creating real products, for example do you ever notice how few “real stuff” is on Corfolot. The is currently a huge problem between being able to design and manufacture.

If all fails and you can’t get a job, I would say just go at it alone. Start working with materials, designs and company’s. Sell yourself and your unique design thinking. Remember your thinking process is unique in the world, and many company’s just design bad products because no one has ever challenged them.

Go forth wannabe designer, challenge the giants.




60 Comments »

  1. i m a student of +2 sc.,2nd yr.
    i m interested in persuin product designin
    cn u plz suggest d various examinations i hv to take up in this regard to get into a gud cllge in india.and also suggest abt d various cllge in india which provide product designin courses….

    Comment by poulami kuila. — September 16, 2007 @ 12:00 am

  2. thanks for the comment, Poulami. I am now aware of what you would need to do to get into a college in India. I would recommend a Google Search. If you can afford it, I would recommend leaving India, and getting the experience of another country and design methodolys. India is a great booming market and there are plenty of skilled manufactures that will need the skills of a product designers such as yourself.#

    I recommend starting here, http://www.designinindia.net/everywhere/disciplines/product-design/index.html and checking out there schools and would recommend a post on there forum.

    Keep in touch, and I hope your journey to learning product design is a fruitful one.

    Ben

    Comment by benarent — September 25, 2007 @ 3:19 am

  3. thanks for the gud job . but how can a level 300 zoology student from university of ghana(west africa) become a product designer. thanks

    Comment by ambright — October 4, 2007 @ 5:55 am

  4. how about coreldraw and poser like i did?!
    is that good to? :)

    Comment by tomz — January 23, 2008 @ 6:50 am

  5. U are completely right , I’m a design student (my course is acout graphic , product and fashion togheter but each semester you choose which subject do u wanna study) with emphasis on product design, and tottaly agree with u about everything and I woulf like to add another step : STEP 5.2
    Get a life. Watch, read, travel, feel everything it’s in your life experience that u are gonna get material to create.

    Comment by Gabriella — February 28, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  6. Thanks for listing info on your website for becoming a product designer. It seems that most schools offer only graphic design or fashion design, but have no “product design” focus. I already have an art degree but want to get into product design. Should I get an education in graphic design and pursue product design on my own time? Should I forget school and just enter contests and make a portfolio that way? What is the best alternative education I can take that will get me closer to knowledge base needed for product design? thanks.

    Comment by Jason — March 13, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  7. Thanks for the comment Jason. I’m not too sure what to recommend, I don’t think I would necassy recommend another degree, but perhaps go for a masters that will let your art converge into products.

    I would say definitely enter contest and build a portfolio that way. The work that gets the most notice are the projects that I quickly produced, but had a strong concept. e.g. The EnergyTree.

    Otherwise Its a tricky industry to really bust into, but if u have strong design sketching skills I’m sure u will be ahead of many grads. I would recommend visiting some university and talking to some lectures of product design.

    Good Luck!

    Comment by benarent — March 14, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  8. hi friends,i m working as a 3d modeller in designing company,i have a little bit exe in product designing,i did 10+2 from commerce with maths,and now i want to do degree course in product designing as a correspondence,plz tell me the name,where i can do the course.plz help me

    Comment by ankit — April 1, 2008 @ 3:04 am

  9. Hi, I am doing a mechanical engerneering degree at the moment, and would like to go into product design. Would it be advisable to change the course I am doing, or would this degree give me the right skills for this career? Thanks for your help.

    Comment by Annabelle — April 2, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  10. Hi, I am a student at Liverpool John Moores University studying Product Design and Digital Modelling. When you mentioned the five better Universities I was wondering whether employers would take more notice of your actual degree grade ie. a 1st, 2:1, etc, or would be more interested in where you actually got your degree from? This was an interesting article, thanks. Paul

    Comment by Paul — April 16, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  11. Hey paul,

    Thanks for posting a comment on my blog. The simple answer is its you, your university really doesn’t matter. Especially in the UK where most of your work is left up to your own learning, and learn a lot, we do.

    A classic example is Johnaton Ive, no one know of Newcastle? Uni before he became famous. Just keep on designing and expanding your portfolio, write a product design blog, no matter how rough, just get your work out their.

    Good luck with your studies!

    Ben

    Comment by benarent — April 17, 2008 @ 12:59 am

  12. i wish i would have known/thought about all this stuff when i was younger!

    Comment by eebudee — May 5, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  13. wack. wack. wack. how you gonna write some bs on product design when you still in school son. this is why the british designers are such cocky shits. you cant get a job because rich boy design students are willing to work for free and you are not. start your own shit. dont work for no fuckers thats gonna pay you $15 an hour just to suck you dry of all your ideas.

    Comment by sucka — June 28, 2008 @ 10:32 am

  14. new york has the two of the best design schools. Parsons and Pratt.

    Comment by sucka — June 28, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  15. Just want to design products with the look of art involved. I very little experience but a thousand ideas, literally, a thousand. Please help. Thank you.

    Comment by Manny — August 15, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

  16. dear all Hi, I am a student of Rukmini Adyantaya Memorial Polytecnic, I studied there 1999-2001 3 years as a adft student i want continue as a disigner Product Designing and Digital Modelling. When you mentioned the five better Universities I was wondering whether employers would take more notice of your actual degree grade ie. a 1st, 2:1, etc, or would be more interested in where you actually got your degree from? so i want a sagestion to cotinue my ambition i got 7 years work experiance in garment industry so now i want to start my own disigning house that why i want to learn more so are you guide me which will be the suitable cource which will suite to my carier growth in disigner field i am from india presently working in indonesia any corespondence cource related to fashion disigning (AMIE or BS )

    Comment by sudhir kamath india — November 18, 2008 @ 5:52 am

  17. I’ve been trying to find info on the web concerning product design. It is very difficult to find anything of any use. So I want to thank you for taking the time to post this information. I find it very helpful.

    I have an education background in Interior design and learned auto cad but have been out of practice because of my career path veering off the wrong direction. I will have to take the time to relearn parts of it and to become more accustom to using some of these other programs. I have many ideas and am eager to get started.

    I am also uncertain of how to go about presenting a portfolio. Is it done in the same way as freelance work? Also what kind of reference do I need.? Thank you to anyone who can answer this.

    Comment by Jeanette — March 2, 2009 @ 1:47 am

  18. Hi Jeanette,

    I’m glad my blog was useful to you. From your post I’m not 100% sure if you want to get into Product or Interior Design.

    If you have been working for a while your portfolio may look a little dated. In this case it would be worth scanning http://www.coroflot.com for the hottest portfolios. It may be worth ditching all of your portfolio and just making some nice clean work.

    My second piece of advice would be to try and meet other professionals in your profession. I even helped setup my local IxD group with another IxDer and its expanded to 40 members in 4 months.. not bad for Dublin Interaction Designers. http://www.ixd.ie

    I wouldn’t worry too much about references for other jobs, but If you can get a weeks work experience / a years Its worth getting it as all you need is your first step on the ladder.

    Get a blog, get sketching and start pursing the work you love.

    Ben

    Comment by benarent — March 5, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  19. hi
    iam a student at the moment iam studing 3d design at college
    i would like to become prouduct designer
    how many years do i have to do at uni?
    thanks

    Comment by haidin — May 29, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  20. Hey,

    I recently graduated with an interior design degree. I was wondering if I could tap into the Product design industry. But I have no Idea whether I have the knowledge or if my field of expertise can inter-twine with product design. Any suggestion or input would be great… Confused ..O.o Thank You

    Comment by SjL0dEsIgN — July 27, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  21. Hi Ben,

    Thank you for setting up your blog as I found it very helpful. I desire to be a self-styled product designer of sorts and the thing is that I never went to design school. It is just that my sister is an interior designer and my brother-in-law a graphic and product designer, and I hung around their studio long enough to realise that formal design education is not absolutely necessary.

    The thing is that I am creating my own lighting pieces at the moment. I was wondering how you would recommend selling designs? The thing is that once I finish my current lighting project I plan to market it to manufacturers like Artecnica for example. What would you do if you were in my shoes? Would you patent the design first and then compile a press kit of sorts and then go ‘cold-emailing’? Thanks a lot and I hope to hear from you soon!

    Comment by Barry — September 10, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  22. Please take a look at my work and let me know if there is any hope for me. Still no job yet, got a BFA in ID 2 years ago from SCAD. I have created work for myself but cant figure out how to get a design 9 to 5. Any help is greatly appreciated, im just lost. jairus.carbonmade.com , coroflot.com/jairus

    Comment by Jairus — November 14, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  23. Thank you so much for starting this information thread. I would like to enter the pet product design industry…….I am a nurse with a broken back (exageration somewhat) from lifting patients and want to do something creative fun and earth conserving in an industry i am passionate about. Too much to ask??? I saw the guy last night who found all colors of worms on the bottom of the ocean something no one thought was possible without sun……..he has passion …..I believe if the goal is in align with the higher power whoever that is to you…as my friend says YOU CAN POOP (he used a more colorful word) ON THE DESK DURING AN INTERVIEW AND IF YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO GET THE JOB YOU WILL
    :) Thanks again and you folks who have the degrees and are not getting jobs “dynamic imaging’ by one of the preacher guys may be a help to you.

    Comment by Katharine — December 1, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

  24. i am a student currently going to appear for design studio test to a particular institute in india, can u pls guide me how to make a relevent portfolio and how to prepare for studio test and for the interveiw as i have oppted for product designing bachelor course pls guide me since i have not anything apropriate..pls reply soon

    Comment by lalit — May 18, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  25. Hey Lalit,

    Thanks for posting a comment. Which studio are you looking to go to in India? I would recommend trying to get a mix of work, look at my design process to get an idea of a range of skills.

    A strong sketching ability will serve you well, try to do a range of sketchs, and do it of a new design, not just redesigning something sexy.

    I would also think about Why you want to be a product designer, have you reasearched product design? Look at design history, and learn from the greats like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Rams.

    Good luck with your interview.

    Comment by benarent — May 18, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  26. thanxxx for the advice it will really help me,,,symbiosis institute of design pune in india, is the institute which i have applied for ,,, can you please give me some tips on how to face the interview??????

    Comment by lalit — May 25, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  27. hi im a student in bsix college and im go to study national diploma in art and design for 2 year where do i go next as im trying to take jonathan ive foot steps thanks please get back, on and im 17 and im interested in designing only electrical products.

    Comment by Danny Ajiere — July 4, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  28. hy plz some one help me….
    i am 10+2 passed bt i m really confused btw interior desiging or product designing…
    kidly grant me the advantages and disadvantages for the same…
    would be gratfull to u for the same..
    thnxs alot!

    Comment by selja — April 7, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

  29. im aproduct design student in uet lahore in 2nd year and i want to that how i can i increase my thinking creativity…;)

    Comment by amir raja — December 5, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  30. how can i make my thinking creativity impressive ?

    Comment by amir raja — December 5, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  31. im aproduct design student in uet lahore in 2nd year and i want to know that how i can i increase my thinking creativity…;)

    Comment by amir raja — December 5, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

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  60. I am currently a Product Design student in the UK . Through out the comments on your blog I have seen a number of Americans ‘slating’ product/industrial design courses in the UK. One in particular by sucka form June 28th 2008 which angered me. I’d like to hear his reasons behind why he believes British Designers are ‘cocky shits’ I am really intrigued.

    I have been lead to believe that the UK and the US the big universities that offer product design hold their lectures in big lecture halls, and I have seen the enrolment numbers are a lot larger especially of those in the US. If this is the case then surely the education is not as good as those of the smaller universities with fewer places on the course, like my own where there are 20 people in my year therefore we get one to one contact from our experienced lecturers who have worked in different areas of design. We are constantly getting feedback, constructive criticism which I believe contributes to developing me and my colleagues into better designers.

    We take part in live projects with industrial partners giving us first hand experience of how things actually are in the design world as well as opening opportunities for internships and jobs. Again I don’t know much about how the courses are ran in the US but if they are ran in the way I have been told they do then I can’t see how they get the experiences and opportunities like the ones I have been lucky to have. I believe these experiences will strenghten my applications when I come to apply for jobs.

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