Advice for a mechanical engineering student who might want to pursue a career in industrial design?
(On preview: my GOSH this is longer than it needs to be. Questions are bulleted at the bottom if you don't want to go through paragraphs of me talking about myself.)
So, I'm currently in year three of a five-year mechanical engineering program, with a specialization in mechatronics/control systems. My field of study is not really one I picked for the best of reasons (engineering: I didn't know what I wanted to do out of high school and my brother chose engineering and I thought, what the hell, I'm pretty good at math, I'll do it; mechatronics: everyone else in the robotics team I'm part of was in it so I went ahead and ticked the box). The parts of my program that I have enjoyed the most so far have been CADing and machining -- I don't have a special aptitude for it but I like working at it and practicing.
For design projects I always end up being the one doing the poster/visuals in photoshop or making the snazzy powerpoint presentation, things my classmates hate but I consider a nice break from staring at McMaster trying to select the correct screw. In my spare time I like to do vaguely arty/crafty things: for instance, I've designed my own jewellery and had it 3D printed, customized my sneakers with fabric paint, and this past weekend I have découpaged ALL THE THINGS. Despite my hobbies I've never really considered anything creative as a career, due to a) my family drilling it into my head that I need to have a PRACTICAL and STABLE career and b) being told throughout my childhood that I wasn't "good at art".
A few months ago we had a guest speaker, who taught industrial design at a local (fairly well-known) art/design school, come in to talk to us about the "human side" of design: ergonomics, usability, aesthetics, etc., which I found fascinating. It was like the intersection of Things I Like and Things I Am Good At. I talked with him briefly after his lecture and he gave me some advice (start building a portfolio, work on your freehand sketching, maybe do a graduate degree in design.) I filed it away in the back of my head and didn't really start thinking about it again until recently -- I have to write an excrucatingly boring report about my potential career paths, and the more I flip through websites and articles and job listings the more it starts to feel like something attainable. So, my questions are:
- What are some things I have to think about if I am seriously considering this?
- How can I make the most of my final two years in mechanical engineering?
- Browsing through job listings I saw quite a few for internships at design firms. Generally speaking are these paid or unpaid? In engineering, all the co-ops and internships are paid; I know that in other fields this is not the case. With my financial situation the way it is I wouldn't be able to do full-time unpaid internships.
- What are the boring/tedious/offputting parts of industrial design that I am currently missing because of my "grass is greener" situation?
- Any other advice you would like to give me? I am in Canada, if that matters at all.