By: Carter Gerard, Industrial Designer, Beyond Design Inc.
One Year Later
This time last year I was a fresh, new graduate from Purdue University and walking through Beyond’s front gates. I started my career as an Industrial Designer last spring after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Design. Since that time, I’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge and have grown as a designer and as a professional. In this article, I’ll share my personal dos and don’ts and advice I would have given myself last summer. For any new grads, I hope this article provides insight and confidence as you embark on your new journey.
“Transitioning from student to professional is both exciting and overwhelming. My advice is to learn from those around you, don’t be afraid to express your opinion and remember to have fun!”
Your Best Bet
For four years West Lafayette, Indiana was my home away from home. I spent most of my adolescence in Naples, Florida and chose Purdue University in the state of Indiana for their strong design program and robust curriculum (and their Big 10 basketball team). The classes I took prepared me for postgrad life but some proved more effective than others. My advice to current design students is to pay close attention to these classes:
Materials + Processes: Explores restrictions of different materials, different molding processes, and general form development.
User Experience + Interface Design Intro: Even if you are not interested in User Interface design, understanding the psychology of how someone navigates through an interface heavily influences how I design physical 3D products and has continually given me an edge.
Design Thesis: This is a mandatory class for some schools, and rightfully so. I found it important to explore my own topic of interest and see it through from initial research to final prototype. It helped me understand my strengths, weaknesses, and what drives my creativity.
Honorable Mention: I took a combined class where I was put in a group with biological engineering, marketing, and psychology students. The more interdisciplinary group projects you can find and join, the better you will be able to communicate with clients, engineers, and marketing teams.
Highlighting What Matters: Resume Writing 101
A resume that highlights any internship experience, freelance work, or sponsored classes (extra, graduate level, anything outside of standard core) really stands out to employers in any industry. As you begin your career it is difficult to highlight your experience when you really don’t have too much. This is where showcasing all freelance work, sponsored classes, and internships will be beneficial.
Internship Programs That Led Me to Beyond
Purdue Exhibit Design Center (Lafayette, IN):
This internship primarily focused on creating exhibits about agriculture for elementary school kids and their families. I partook in the woodworking department and was taught how to communicate complex information to different age ranges, specifically children (seen below).
Quoizel Lighting (Charleston, SC):
This lighting design internship taught me so much about manufacturing and trend research. The lights had to be reasonably priced and fit multiple home aesthetics. I was in charge of designing for a more youthful buyer and looked at home, fashion, and general product design for inspiration.
Newell Rubbermaid (Kalamazoo, MI):
This internship was fast-paced and had me moving from project to project. This helped prepare me for the dynamic culture of a consultancy and exposed me to different kinds of products and diversified my skill set. Experiences are key, and although it’s hard to collect those during and after graduation, there are opportunities. You will need to be proactive though and seek out these internships and be diligent with freelance opportunities.
Coupled with your internship experience, your portfolio will speak volumes about your capabilities and potential. Your portfolio should showcase your individual style, skills, and capabilities. Remain confident in your work despite constructive criticism in interviews and on job applications.
“Think Broadly and Lead Boldly”
This Purdue mantra has stuck with me since graduation and it has been paramount in how I conquered doubts and took risks when it came to applying for jobs. When first applying for jobs, I tried to make sure I fit all the requirements of every job posting. I would get extremely discouraged when I missed one or two of the stipulations on the application requirements and would shy away from applying at all.
Coincidently, in my statistics class at the time, we reviewed a Harvard Business Review article that stated most men will apply to jobs that they are 60% qualified for, while women will only apply when they are 100% qualified. This statistic stung because I knew I was contributing to that female statistic. After talking to fellow design students I recognized the same trend amongst my peers (both male and female). At the end of the day, let your portfolio speak for yourself. Be confident in your student work and present it without doubt or hesitation. Even if all the boxes aren’t checked.
Transitioning from Class to Studio
Now that I have had a full year of design firm experience under my belt, I have adjusted to working at a close-knit studio, like Beyond, with both large and small clients in a diverse range of industries.
Navigating the Tides
Consultancies fluctuate with the workload. Some days it’s smooth sailing while other days might have tight and demanding deadlines. You get used to the push and pull and you learn how to plan your week accordingly. If I know there is a big deadline looming, I prepare for the possibility of staying after work to hammer out details and try to make myself available for last minute client feedback.
Working Together + Independently
Almost half of all the work I do is collaborative. Most initial brainstorms and explorations are done as a team. The work becomes more independent as the process is refined. Finding a balance between independent and group work takes time but ultimately will keep you more focused and dependable. Making sure everyone is on the same page to help deliver what is required for the project alleviates stress and helps prioritize what projects need to be worked on first.
Earning Your Keep
My career has evolved in the sense that I have earned more responsibility and the freedom to voice my professional opinion in different projects. I am still jumping between user interface and industrial design, but I feel more confident in my decision making and presenting a project to a client in a smaller team setting and even on my own.
The East + West Side of The Lake
Although I interned in Kalamazoo (where there are more industrial designers than any other state), the diversity and size of the Chicago design community is huge in comparison. With the Merchandise Mart and McCormick Place hosting multiple design related shows and expos a year, there are always networking and learning events to create new design connections.
Final Piece of Guidance
Don’t be afraid to stand up for your design. Transitioning from a student role to a designer role is tricky because you are no longer turning to your teachers for the answers, but clients are turning to you for the answers instead. Be confident in your design, and always defend the end user.
To learn more about our work and the Beyond team please visit our website or drop us a note at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading + look for our next article later this month!