Career Advice Wanted

Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2015 03:02 pm
I know what I want to do - design products that I* like. I feel refreshed and energized from it. I wake up and go to bed doing this on my free time and would love to: "simply" make money from selling products from designs I've made, so as to fund more products to design and make. The products aren't necessarily complex or enormous. They're everyday, practical things, such as chairs, tools, and other craft-like objects; though, they can be complex and expensive, such as cars and homes.

I've tried out a career in healthcare IT, and I dreaded every moment of it. The environment was callous, and my employer was, well, very unfair to me to put it VERY gently. My experience there has shaped my outlook on life to desire to be more self-sufficient than ever before, as some companies are just bad and won't make due for what they've done. Needless to say, I've left that job behind me; but, it seems that there's nothing ahead for me to look forward to. I've been suffering through some serious depression and this lack of career development for what I actually know I want to do is only making it worse.

Furthermore, here are the hurdles I face:

1. Lack of formal experience: I have a degree in Economics and Philosophy. This double major doesn't really cater towards developing a formal career in product design. If I could go back, I'd become a mechanical engineer and specialize in product design. But, that's not possible so I've taken upon myself to just dive in. I've learned how to use some design programs such as Gimp 2, and designed a slew of products. Is the best route to get prototypes made and market/sell them on Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced funding sites?

2. *I previously emphasized the "I" with an asterisk. This is because I do not like the designs of everyday products or the product designs that others have put out (or at least, some elements of the design are not to my liking). Naturally, then, I also dislike catering to the design wants of potential clients. Essentially, I'd like to create my own product line for others to choose from. I believe I'm more picky with design than others, as many of my friends simply accept products and their designs that are already in the market.

Am I being too much of an idealist? Are my expectations too high? I've realized that for all of the products that I ever want to make (which includes a customized car, custom stand alone urban row house, etc.), I'd either need to be at least a millionaire, or be in serious debt and face bankruptcy.

Finally, going back to the main question... how do I achieve my goal?

Thanks in advance - I really appreciate it.
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Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2015 03:11 pm
You're going to need to learn how to cater to people. He that pays the piper calls the tune. Until you're fabulously wealthy and can turn down paying work (or you don't mind starving), you'll need to compromise. This is a fact of every artist's life, I might add.

In the meantime, take design classes. Self-taught is lovely but you should have some real training. At the very least, you need to know the full panoply of features in your programs, and understand why some designs do and don't work. It wouldn't hurt you to at least audit a beginning mechanical engineering course, too. See what they do and what works, and why other things don't. Sometimes products exist the way they do not because people love them that way, but because the law or fire or safety codes dictate it.
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2015 03:15 pm
Back in my learning and changing careers time*, now long ago, they taught industrial design at a good art school in Los Angeles, Chouinard. I see it is still listed as an art institute in google. I know nothing about them but the name. Anyway, my downstairs neighbor took classes there. He designed the then speedy car, the Vector. So, I agree with Jespah. Get to it, direct yourself to design and presentation of it.

An a2ker went to Chouinard many years ago, the painter and violinist and tenured social anthropology teacher, JLNobody, multi talented, and a pretty wise man.

There must be other schools like that. I've no idea if mechanical engineering is a better idea, but you could explore.

*I went from lab medicine with art classes after work to becoming a landscape architect. I had a couple of art galleries along the way, one fairly early in the progress, and one fairly recent. Not that you should follow me, but keep your eyes open for what you like to do.

Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2015 03:39 pm
I automatically agree with Jespah that what some clients or potential buyers want you to design may annoy you.

In landscape design, there can be matters beyond annoyance that you won't get involved with, basically bad practice, at least to me and sometimes re the law.

I once refused a job involving a cantilevered swimming pool - over a cliff. Others would have been involved but I wanted nothing to do with it, no matter how engineered. (I've designed a lot of pools, back in the day). Never heard from that person again.. as my reply was rather smarting.

Sometimes clients have odd ideas that you can get into, for the fun of it, can be a learning thing too.
Sometimes the idea is boring and you just do it.
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Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2015 02:02 pm
@jespah & @ossobuco:

Thanks for your inputs, I greatly appreciate it.

Should I consider going to business school? Or, would that be going in the wrong direction?

In other words, is it more important to go to school to learn more about design, or to learn more about business to be an excellent entrepreneur?

Some notes:

1. I went to a top 20 liberal arts college (think Bowdoin, Bates, etc.)

2. I've been unemployed for quite some time now (a few years, not months), and I've been getting over my personal issues after everything that's happened to me.

3. If I do choose business school, I would only consider the top 8 B-schools (e.g. Kellogg, Yale SOM)

4. Shouldn't I just "dive-in" by opening a business or at least starting a project on Kickstarter or another crowd-sourced funding site? B-school is going to cost north of $200,000. Design school will probably cost far less, but it'll be in the tens of thousands. Would it be better to invest (a smaller proportion of) that money into a project instead?
Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2015 02:58 pm
My landscape architecture courses (4 years, night school) were at a good university but weren't part of a degree program; they were a function of a very good university extension program. After that and two years of internship, I took a national licensing test and passed the damned thing (3 days, yikes).

My point though is that the beginning classes were not about landscape as such, but about the elements of designing, and those elements set me up for later more particular learning.

Does a university you like have an extension program? with any kind of non IT design classes? You can usually pick one class at a time, one amount of money at a time. Nothing like tens of thousands.

So - that's one thing, maybe just hop into some basic design classes. You might want to go in different directions after that - to mechanical/industrial/automotive engineering, whatever.
Sounds like you are in the eastern US. Check out Pratt Institute for certificate programs (sounds mildly similar to classes I took)
I think what you are looking for is more knowledge and not necessarily a piece of paper, but you might get to liking all you're learning and go for the paper too.

I also like the kickstarter idea, and I know there are other sites somewhat similar to kickstarter. Can't remember the name of one right now.

On business school, lot of people do that and while some courses would sure be useful, a whole degree? Maybe more extension programs. UCLA's extension system is fabulous for a whole lot of subjects, same with other UC schools. I don't know how these things work in the eastern US.
I don't know, re business school for the degree. You still wouldn't be in the throes of how to design things.

So, it's up to you, what you think you will enjoy.

You can tell I'm in favor of one's work life being of continuing interest.

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Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2015 03:04 pm
I have worked in startups and they will eat your nest egg, particularly if you don't know what you're doing. New businesses fail at VERY high rates. Don't add inexperience to the reasons for a venture failing.

Go into a startup/new business expecting to lose serious money. I ain't kiddin'.

I still advise training, at least some to start. And maybe rethink your idea of a top 8 or top 10 school or whatever. It's a nice idea in theory, and if it helps you get your foot in the door and give you contacts, then maybe it's worth it. But you will also be saddling yourself with monster debt, as you are aware.

Why not look into a far less expensive local school, in either design or business, whatever you end up deciding on? Look at the placement stats only. If your fantastic top 8 school gets 99% of its graduates employed within 6 months of graduation, but your cheap local school gets 90% of its graduates employed within 6 months of graduation, then the advantage to your hoo-ha top 8 school is not as impressive as the name might indicate.

Debt is a killer, and if you are unsure of what you want to do in life or you are choosing among several options, it is a terrible thing to be burdening yourself with.

Also, look into programs where you can get a little of both. Maybe a design school where you can get elective credit at the local b school or even in another department of the same university, would be a better fit for you.
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