Future Design Careers: What You Need To Know Now

I’ve often heard it said that today’s college students are studying and preparing themselves for jobs that don’t exist yet. Could that really be true?

Technology has changed everything.

The folks at Fast Company interviewed a dozen leaders in the design world to get their take on where we’re heading, and what design careers to plan for. No plan is perfect, but 5 Design Jobs That Won’t Exist In The Future clearly identifies some of the changes future designers should expect.

I asked Tom Gattis, Dean of the School of Design at CCAD for his opinion on how design fits into our continually changing landscape. Clearly, it’s a high priority issue for him. “Reflective of what’s happening in the marketplace, [design] disciplines are changing daily,” he explained. The basic technical skill set of the past is today’s minimal requirement to gain entry. “UX and graphic design are morphing together. Product designers and graphic artists all have to have the breadth of knowledge to work across what used to be discreet disciplines.”

In other words, design fields are simultaneously merging and broadening.

Schools across the country are adapting to meet the needs of industry. They’re integrating their creative disciplines, including more social science and research into the curriculum, exposing students to international cultural norms, and incorporating business basics that today’s employers demand. They’re also providing learning opportunities that extend well beyond the studio and classroom. The skills of “collaboration, professionalism, and networking,” are all important interactions that make for better professionals and employees, stated Tom. Employers are looking for an “amalgamation of skills beyond just being creative,” he added.

The bottom line brings good news: the world is waking up to the problem-solving value that designers bring to the table. Creative opportunities lie ahead!


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Industrial Design: A Different Art Major

By Carla R. Gonzalez

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

Knowing how to guide your creative student can be difficult, particularly if they show an affinity for both the creative and mechanical (robotics, systems and engineering, new technologies), and have an interest in design trends, cars, clothes, or gadgets. All these interests are relevant to Industrial Design. According to the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) website, “…Industrial Design is the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value, and appearance for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” So while a creative student may be hesitant to choose an art-based college or career, it may be worth researching art and design colleges that have programs in Industrial Design or related fields like Product Design, Transportation Design, Toy Design, or even Fashion Accessories Design and Shoe Design.

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

The career possibilities for graduates of such programs are widely varied and can range from designing home and kitchen appliances to cars and motorcycles, athletic gear, fashion and leather goods, watches, bicycles, furniture, and more. The best design students are often those who want to find ways of improving functionality. They understand the positive impact good design can have on user-perception, functionality, and desirability, and they have an interest in consumer trends and marketing. Industrial designers help develop a brand’s physical identity and build customer loyalty through design and user experience.

national endowment for arts 2013Potential design students need to know that not all design majors need to spend years learning to paint. What they will do is develop their ability to draw and communicate visually and to conduct research to develop innovative designs that meet current and future societal needs and wants. Industrial Design programs teach how to design digitally in 3D, design for an audience, create and print 3D prototypes, connect design to user experience, and work collaboratively with craftspeople, advertisers, and graphic designers. Many programs offer career preparation by integrating corporate-sponsored projects with real-world design problems into the studio classroom. They give students the opportunity to get in front of professional designers, adhere to real deadlines, collaborate, and engage in a healthy dose of friendly competition; all essential to understanding how jobs in the design industry really work. Industrial Design students can be assured that there are jobs out there, and that the demand for better, smarter, and more beautiful design won’t likely diminish any time soon.

College for Creative Studies is one of the top Design Schools in the US based on Alumni Success by LinkedIn. Carla R. Gonzalez is the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at College for Creative Studies. She can be reached at cgonzalez@collegeforcreativestudies.edu.

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Design Thinking: In The Classroom

design thinkingWhich colleges are integrating Design Thinking into their undergraduate Industrial Design (ID) programs?

Here’s one: The Methods of Design Research at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) was offered this past fall semester for ID sophomores. Paired with a spring semester studio class, the two courses combine to help students grasp the strategic rationale behind the design of a product and the process required to get to that rationale, in order to design a more successful product. “The goal is to simulate a real-world project scenario that incorporates insights, strategy, and then design,” explained John Youger, Director of Insights and Strategy at WD Partners and CCAD Adjunct Professor. 

Last semester’s project: design a future gas station, something that will exist 5 – 10 years from now. The process includes understanding and defining the challenge, generating ideas, and conducting research, followed by prototyping and testing. The night I sat in on the class had students flushing through their methods for gathering their primary and secondary research.

As if responding to a real-world RFP, students considered myriad details including vehicles of the future, fuel types, technology, and spatial layout of a gas station. They also dialogued over how to conduct their primary research (teams of 2 – 3 were formed), and discussed the market groups that will feel the impact of a design change; consumers, employees, and stakeholders. Finally, they planned for the presentations of their findings.

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova's research presentation

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova’s research presentation

End of semester results and presentations for this collaborative group were impressive. Now, engaged in their studio courses, the same students are focusing on the impact their research has made on their design choices, and will have on the look and feel of their future fuel stations.

Their research and the process they utilized to obtain it have provided them with the tools to create good future design decisions, in class and throughout their careers. The process can be repeated and utilized to solve project after project. If ID is on your radar, inquire at other colleges. Ask how they integrate design thinking into their processes. For me, I can’t wait to see what the end of this semester brings.

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Design Thinking: Thinking Design

head of ideas - my colors

Art and design require strategy. Consider Industrial Design (ID); in order to successfully design and create a new product, or redesign an existing one, it’s necessary to understand the environment in which the product will exist. Studying that environment and incorporating what’s learned into the design of the product is commonly known as design research, strategic design, or design thinking. Put another way; take a look at a seat belt, a flash drive, a video game, or a recumbent bicycle. The marketplace in which each of these products exists had to be considered when it was designed. That’s obvious, but not necessarily simple.

 

If you’re considering studying ID in college, you know that it’s more than just drawing cool cars and contemporary coffee dispensers. How those products will be used is critical to their design and construction. Comfort, dexterity, scale, lightness or heaviness of materials used, and the ability to withstand high or low temperatures are just some of the considerations that go into their respective designs. Cultural norms need to be considered, as do the type and size of marketplace they’ll be sold in, material costs, distribution, and competition. And, once a product is created, it needs to be market-tested.

 

I’m guessing these aren’t the first things you’d consider relevant to creating good design. And they might not cross your mind when choosing ID college courses. But they are extremely relevant. Today, design thinking has become part of the vernacular in contemporary architecture, design and engineering practices, and is gaining recognition in the business community. It’s a way of understanding the context of a problem and designing a more innovative solution. design thinking

 

Professors and administrators at colleges across the country are incorporating design thinking into their curricula as well. By doing so, they’re providing students with a real-world view of the industrial design process, and setting them up for career success.

 

My suggestion: inquire about design thinking when you tour college campuses. It’ll show the ID professors that you know what you’re getting into, and that you’re serious about it. You’ll probably learn more about it along the way. I’ll share more of what I’ve learned on the subject next week.

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Function, Meet Design

Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman's concept for an everyday city bike of the future

Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman’s concept for an everyday city bike of the future

I’ve been intrigued by Industrial Design for a long time.  In college, the ID students worked directly below those of us in the textile studio, so I caught numerous peeks into their world.  Very cool: applying your passion for design to everyday products – whether they’re kitchen gadgets, office supplies or automobiles – and making life a bit better in the process.  This is not just art for art’s sake; it’s logical, practical, tangible, and fun!  Integrating art into the creation of a product.

Today, the terms industrial design and product design are often used interchangeably.  Either way, study of the subject provides the opportunity to integrate mechanical and technological interests with art and design to solve real-world problems.

Top notch industrial and product design programs exist at many colleges across the country including Carnegie Melon University, Cleveland Institute of Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and College for Creative Studies.  Each focuses on teaching critical thinking skills and learning to solve complex problems through collaboration and the application of interdisciplinary methodologies.   Cultural and economic impacts are included as well, as are the study of ergonomics, marketing and manufacturing.  Through lectures and hands-on projects you’ll learn how things are built, and incorporate functional design into the building process.

You won’t find yourself lacking for career options if ID is in your future. Stetson Hats, Slinky, or Weber Grills are one route, all designed and made in the United States. They’re also all highlighted in the April 22nd cover story article of Time magazine, which claims “Made in the USA is making a comeback.”  The impact that has on product and industrial designers is exponential, growing the marketplace for intelligent, well-designed products.  For other career routes consider furniture design, medical equipment design, shoe design, materials and color consulting, or industrial design education.

A multitude of resources exist for burgeoning and current ID’ers.  My favorite is Core77.  Spend some time there, then pick a school and you may be on your way to creating or improving some cool gadgets for mankind.

And by the way, thanks!

 

I hope that after reading my blog you’ll leave a comment by letting me know what you’re interested in, and what programs you’ve found.

Photo credit: Industrialdesignserved.com