Commercial and Industrial Designer Job Description, Education, Training Requirements, Career, Salary, Employment

Job Description: Commercial and industrial designers combine the fields of art, business, and engineering to design the products used every day by businesses and consumers. These designers are responsible for the style, function, quality, and safety of most manufactured goods. Usually these designers will specialize in one particular product category such as automobiles, appliances, technology goods, medical equipment, furniture, toys, tools or housewares.

Training and Educational Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is required for most entry-level commercial and industrial design positions. Many candidates in industrial design also pursue a master’s degree in order to increase their employment opportunities. Creativity and technical knowledge are crucial in this occupation. People in this field also must have a strong sense of the esthetic an eye for color and detail and a sense of balance and proportion. Designers must understand the technical aspects of how the product functions.

Job Outlook: Employment of commercial and industrial designers is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through 2016. Employment growth will arise from an expanding economy and from an increase in consumer and business demand for new or upgraded products. However, competition for jobs will be keen because many talented individuals are attracted to the design field. The best job opportunities will be in specialized design firms which are used by manufacturers to design products or parts of products. Designers with strong backgrounds in engineering and computer-aided design, as well as extensive business expertise, may have the best prospects.

Salary: Median annual earnings for commercial and industrial designers are $54,560. The middle 50 percent earn between $41,270 and $72,610. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $31,510, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $92,970.

Significant Facts:

•    About 30 percent of commercial and industrial designers are self-employed.

•    A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is required for entry-level positions; however, many commercial and industrial designers choose to pursue a master’s degree in either industrial design or business administration.

•    Manufacturers have been outsourcing design work to design services firms in order to cut costs and to find the most qualified design talent.

Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?

I interned at Karges Furniture in Evansville, Indiana. It is a world-famous furniture company, primarily residential, noted as one of the most expensive in the world because of the beautiful craftsmanship, ar-tisansal finishes, and uncompromised quality and perfection. I was an intern in the design and engineering department and worked on several designs for King Hussein of Jordan and for the Fall High Point furniture show in High Point, NC. It was a summer internship and was unpaid, which was difficult at the time. Now looking back on it, it was worth more than gold.

Which companies have the best internships in this field and are known to help launch successful careers?

Bretford, INC., Herman Miller, Paoli Furniture, Bernhardt Furniture, Baker Furniture, Knoll, Charles Alan Furniture.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

Chicago; Grand Rapids, MI; New York; Dallas/Ft. Worth; High Point, NC; Southern Indiana; Rochester/Buffalo; Charlotte, NC; Milan, Italy; and Como, Italy.

What is your typical day like?

Meetings all day, on the phone constantly. Including my commute, I work 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

What are your job responsibilities?

Managing and directing new product development with a staff of 18 direct reports.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Traveling and getting in front of the customers.

What do you dislike about your job?

Butting heads with stubborn engineers! Too many hours yet still not enough time to get things done.

Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

I discovered that being a director of design is a very specialized position in that it combines many specific skills, yet it really may be best described as a “Renaissance Man” Entrepreneurial Visionary-type position. It’s definitely critical for creating great products in nimble companies with a clear future vision.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I worked on yachts, picked up woodworking in the process, and I started building furniture out of necessity.

Describe how you got into this industry and how you got your most recent job.

I totally focused and concentrated on the contract office furniture market. I got my current job by being recommended for it by a president of another company.

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

Consumer product development, fashion industry, importing products from Europe, or hotel/commercial real estate design and development.

To what professional associations do you belong?

American Institute of Architects, Chicago Furniture Designers Association, Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA), International Interior Design Association (IIDA).

What professional publications you read?

I read Interior Design, Contract, Metropolis, Abitare, Frame, Architectural Digest, Graphis, ID, Grains Business, Corel!, and Herman Miller’s Web site.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

Work hard and smart, take business courses, and be persistent.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

New York/New Jersey area or San Diego.

What is your typical day like?

I pretty much just sculpt all day and play with toys a little.

What are your job responsibilities?

Produce a product consistent with the reference and information given and, of course, create accurate and functional sculpted pieces.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Seeing my sculpt (or design) in the final packaging. It’s very gratifying to know that my work will be bought by millions around the world. The free toys aren’t bad either.

What do you dislike about your job?

A lot of times I don’t feel challenged enough. I like big projects that I can really get into. I don’t like the small, quick stuff.

Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

I guess the turning point was when I moved to New Jersey after working freelance for over a year as a designer in Savannah. Because of this, I was able to work in-house and become a sculptor.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I was a big fan of Todd McFarlane as a kid. I’d always draw the character that made him famous, Spawn. It was Spawn that really got me interested in comics initially and influenced me to create my own characters and plots. This led me to study sequential art in college. I wanted to be a comic book artist at first but decided that I liked to design and sculpt better, so I geared my education toward a conceptual illustration path. I was an admirer of McFarlane toys throughout college and strove to make my own sculptures and characters as detailed and impressive as those. My college education got me a job working for my childhood influence as a toy designer, which led to me being a toy sculptor. It’s very exciting. I feel inspired by my job, and the knowledge I’ve gained at this company has been invaluable.

How did you get into this industry?

I got the design job just three weeks after graduating with my BFA. I had sent out my portfolio to several toy companies and was very happy when McFarlane Toys showed interest since they were at the top of my list. The design president got in contact with me and seemed to be impressed with my concept art. This got me a job as a toy designer. Several sculptors had left the company at the time that I moved to New Jersey and they were shorthanded. I was asked to come in and help out temporarily as a sculptor. I liked sculpting more than designing because there was more work involved and there was a greater opportunity to grow. Six months later, I was hired full-time as a sculptor, which is the position I really wanted in the first place but didn’t think I was good enough to get. Fm still asked to design from time to time, but I mostly just sculpt. Fm the only sculptor there who also designs for them.

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

I would love to do concept art for movies, which is still on the agenda after I learn all I can in this field. Fd also love to work as a paleo-artist (an artist who reconstructs prehistoric animals as sculptures, drawings, or paintings) for museum reference books or other appropriate media. Fm a huge fan of prehistoric animals.

What professional Web sites and magazines do you read?

I just check the toy news Web sites such as 16bit.com and figures, com and toy magazines such as ToyFare, Tomarts, and Lee’s Toy Review to keep up to date on the toy industry.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

Fearn your anatomy, pay close attention to detail, and don’t be afraid to play with lots of toys!

CAREER LADDER:

In 2003, I started Laf, Inc., which specializes in soft goods, print, and package design, and I could not be more delighted that I did it. Then in 2005, I started Moss05, which specializes in casual footwear for men and women.

Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?

Yes, I interned at a company called Navigator Biometric LLC, an England-based company that had offices in Savannah and Canada. I worked for this company for over a year while I was in school. It was a fantastic experience and introduction to designing, developing, manufacturing and inventing a product/idea from start to finish.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

I would love to be in New York; in fact, I moved there right after college about six months before I started my company. It was an amazing experience. There were lots of opportunities, but it was competitive and expensive. I chose to move home after a summer so I could start my own company.

What is your typical day like?

I start my workday at 9:00 a.m. I have about 30 clients that I design mostly in the graphic design area, (corporate identity branding, packaging, event design print, advertising, marketing, and apparel design). I am still the only employee, but do have alliances with many other local designers in the surrounding areas. I hit the ground running every a.m. and I don’t stop until about 10:00 p.m. almost every day. I still work from home, and it has been a fantastic experience. I have had the opportunity to learn what I am really good at, before growing too fast and having to take work just to survive.

What are your job responsibilities?

I own the company, so I have a lot to do. My responsibilities include design, marketing, freelancing, markets, sourcing, billing, and much more. Plus I do a lot of volunteer work in my community that helps me stay well rounded and I love to give to people!

What is your favorite part of your job?

To able to design and work for myself.

What do you dislike about your job?

That I do not have sources and mentors I would love to find more people that do what I do, so that I could bounce ideas off someone else. I am in Ft. Myers, Florida and industrial design is kind of out of the box for most of my local clients and alliances. Starting a company out of school with hardly any experience was probably one of the more risky things I have ever done, but truly one of the most inspiring.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

When I started failing business school, and started researching what I truly wanted out of my career, I discovered industrial design. I knew this would be the career that would keep me stimulated for the rest of my life. Being only three years in my profession, I am going to have to say I still have mountains to climb; but I am so excited about the journey ahead, I can hardly wait.

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

Musician, professional athlete, publicist, marketing and media.

To what professional associations do you belong and what publications do you read?

I belong to Industrial Designers Society of America and I read Dwell, How, Print, I.D., Core 77, and Cool Hunting.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

Just go for it, never give up….