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Reassuring words for beginners

30 Jul

And how to get out of a creative rut

Original source:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

– Ira Glass


What skills does a young industrial designer need to develop?

30 Jul


Make things with your hands. Especially sculpture.

If you have the technical skills but lack the artist’s eye, you will never be a great designer.

However, it is necessary to have technical skills. The best designers know what is impossible with current technology, what is possible at high cost or with low yield, what is safe and easy, etc.

Learn how your objects are manufactured. Talk to machinists, watch a CNC mill, visit a factory assembly line, feed an injection-molding machine, etc.

The technology is always changing. It is important to be aware of the latest developments — the best methods, the newest processes, the most advanced tools, etc. — even if you can’t use them yet.

It is also necessary to have an intimate knowledge of your materials. Have you noticed the way that accomplished woodworkers talk about wood? On this forum, SDR, SPD, Heath, and Tktoo are good examples (and there are others, of course). They have a deep understanding — deeper than “knowledge”, more like “feeling” — of the density and strength of various species, the way wood shrinks and stretches, the way it takes stain and other surface treatments, the extent to which it can be worked, the strength of glues, the effect of moisture, etc.

You should understand ABS, polycarbonate, aluminum or steel alloys — or whatever materials you use — in the same way. You should know how those materials feel, how much they weigh, how sharply they can be bent, how they cut, their thermal properties, how they flow in a mold, the surface finishes available, elasticity, strengths, weaknesses, how they’re produced, how they wear, how they age, the cost, etc., etc., etc. Learn about fasteners and adhesives, too.

You can learn a lot of this from books, but you won’t instinctively KNOW it without experience… So get as much experience as you can: Make things with your hands, but also just HOLD things in your hands, and LOOK at them. Think about WHY they are designed as they are, and WHY they use the materials that they do.

Also, be a critic. Analyze every manufactured object you see; try to find at least one thing wrong with everything, and think about how to fix it with a better design.

Talk with other designers or design students. Try to meet mechanical-engineering students, and talk with them, too. Search the web for “human factors”, “ergonomics”, and “usability”. Read Donald Norman’s books, starting with “The Design of Everyday Things”. Read

Top skills an industrial designer needs

30 Jul

Notes from a lecture given at Umeå Institute of Design from an industrial designer (forgot to write his name down unfortunately).

Top 10 Professional Skills
1. Sales. Networking
2. Process. Design method
3. Form. Aesthetics
4. Form. Semantics
5. Form. Verbalizing it
6. Technology
7. Politics
8. CAD
9. Man-machine interface
10. Graphics

Top Personal Skills
1. Learning
2. Radical thinking
3. Clearness