Education and Training Requirements
In high school, take as many art and computer classes (ideally in CAD) as possible in addition to college preparatory classes in English, social studies, algebra, geometry, and science. Classes in mechanical drawing may be helpful, but drafting skills are being replaced by the ability to use computers to create graphics and manipulate objects. Science classes, such as physics and chemistry, are also becoming more important as industrial designers select materials and components for products and need to have a basic understanding of scientific principles. Shop classes, such as machine shop, metalworking, and woodworking, are also useful and provide training in using hand and machine tools.
A bachelor's degree in fine arts, industrial design, architecture, or engineering is recommended, although some employers accept diplomas from art schools. Training is offered through art schools, art departments of colleges and universities, and technical colleges. Most bachelor's degree programs require four or five years to complete. Some schools also offer a master's degree, which requires two years of additional study. Often, art schools grant a diploma for three years of study in industrial design. Programs in art and design are offered by more than 360 schools accredited (or that are in the process of accreditation) by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. At these schools, students can also create a professional portfolio, which is essential to being hired.
The Industrial Designers Society of America also offers a list of schools at its Web site, https://www.idsa.org/education/id-schools.
School programs vary; some emphasize engineering and technical work, while others emphasize art background. Certain basic courses are common to every school: two-dimensional design (color theory, spatial organization) and three-dimensional design (abstract sculpture, art structures). Students also have a great deal of studio practice, learning to make models of clay, plaster, wood, and other easily worked materials. Some schools even use metalworking machinery. Technically oriented schools generally require a course in basic engineering. Schools offering degree programs also require courses in English, history, science, and other basic subjects. Such courses as merchandising and business are important for anyone working in a field so closely connected with the consumer. Most schools also offer classes in computer-aided design and computer graphics. One of the most essential skills for success as an industrial designer is the ability to use design software.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are no certification or licensing requirements for industrial designers.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
To get a foot in the door, it's best to build up a professional portfolio of work done for academic projects or at internships to showcase your talent.
Industrial designers are creative, have artistic ability, and are able to work closely with others in a collaborative style. In general, designers do not crave fame or recognition because designing is a joint project involving the skills of many people. In most cases, industrial designers remain anonymous and behind the scenes. Successful designers can accept criticism and differences of opinion and are open to new ideas.
Industrial designers should also have experience creating new products. They should know how to conduct research; use computer software to create blueprints and models; work with other specialists to develop the products; understand the expectations of consumers for new products; evaluate the safety of their designs; and even participate in advertising and marketing the products that they develop.