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November 16, 2010 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Help me decide what I want to do with my life, and what degree I need in order to get there. Are there any jobs in the design field that don't necessarily require you to design things?

I've taken a semester at a community college, and then transfered over to a four year school, the subject was architecture. I liked it. I was good at it. But it definitely wasn't something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, here I am, kind of at a loss as to where to go.

Me: 20yrs old. Female. I like to design and create. But I'm pretty sure I don't want to be a "creator" the rest of my life. i.e., make pottery/clothes/furniture. While I really enjoy doing all of those things as a hobby, I think it'd fail as a career. Designing things, however, could be tremendous fun. I could see myself doing interior design, environmental design, even graphic design. If any of you have any real-life advice as to what it's like in those fields, please speak up.

I also like to solve problems. I could see myself doing this more than actually being a designer. Though, I approach the design process as a list of problems to solve, rather than an object of it's own to be invented, which is why I could be happier when designing interior spaces than when designing a jacket. So, I've been thinking about project management, or something like that, while still working in a design setting. I've found that I'm happiest in a creative environment, even when I'm not creating. But what kind of degree would I need? And what would this position actually entail? Are there any other positions where you're basically being paid to be a problem solver?

I just don't know what career would satisfy everything I'm looking for; solving problems, being in a creative environment, working on a team toward a common goal. Do any of you older, wiser, more experienced MeFites have any advice?
posted by shesaysgo to Education (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
i am more or less a PM/art lead for the art side for ad stuff. i love it. i worked as a graphic designer and illustrator first though, and i still do production work now but there are PMs for other creative parts of the company who aren't also artists and don't do production work so it's entirely possible you could get a role like this. what i really enjoy about my work is the problem solving element- brainstorming campaigns and then working the developers/salespeople/artists/other parts of the company to make something come together. i also have to help work out problems that crop up along the way.

i studied fine art and english lit in college so i don't really have a special degree, just several years of experience in graphic design / illustration that at some point got bumped up to management. most likely you'll have to go through a newbie period of just being a bump on the production line before you can transition to the higher PM roles. that's just my individual experience though; hopefully other people who are purely PMs will speak up.
posted by raw sugar at 6:49 PM on November 16, 2010

How about starting a business? You could do anything from running an art gallery to putting together a website like Etsy to opening an interior design firm, etc. Running a business is very different from actually being a creator but the bonus is that you get to work around the things you like (art stuff, design stuff, etc) but you don't have to actually do the creating. Managing people, funding, day to day business affairs, etc will keep you busy and give you plenty of problems to solve!
posted by MsKim at 7:43 PM on November 16, 2010

Working for a interior designer might be right up your alley. Make sure you get some basic business classes, know about Quicken, CAD, art history, all the usuals. People come to this field with a variety of backgrounds, but if you can major in Interior Design, it might be worth checking out.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:46 PM on November 16, 2010

Are you into film at all? I work as a digital compositor, and it's a really interesting job, though, I can't seem to find a page to link to that makes it sound exciting. If you enjoy playing with photoshop at all, it's like that - layering images to create a realistic effect. except with compositing, it's layering those images at 24 frames/second, so it's way more complex. There is a lot of design and problem solving involved - every shot that I work on is a little different, and needs to be finished it it's own way. You need to be good with computers, and have artistic sense as well. It's a lot of work, though - and deadlines can be murder; lots of extra hours. Here are some book recommendations if you want to investigate further, or memail me.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:47 PM on November 16, 2010

Are you a musical person? I was in the same boat as you a few months back. I'm still in high school. I was trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I was thinking engineer, but I...idk. I realized I wanted to write music. :D And off I went. :D

Engineering is still on my mind, its my fall back. But I don't say it like "its what I will do for the rest of my life" Its not like you are going to do the same repetitive task. Things will change. The way you design something will always be transforming in unison with technology. People will be asking for different things. You will have to tackle each new job like it was your first one.
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 8:11 PM on November 16, 2010

Response by poster: All of these sound rather awesome, actually. These are exactly the kinds of things I was talking about.
Regarding film: Yes, I'm interested in film. For a long while, I had seriously considered being a director, or something. The problem there is that I have no knowledge of the field. I honestly couldn't tell you the different between a director or producer, let alone all the other, more under-the-table, and most likely more artsy/desirable jobs that film production entails. More advice on this industry is much appreciated.

Related question: I don't know if there's any way to do this, but I was looking into a degree in fine/studio arts, and from my understanding its a semi self-built curriculum. If that was the case, could I effectively fill my course load with drawing, design, art history, color theory, CAD, quicken, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc. classes, and use it to obtain a job in a design firm? Kind of like a build-you-own-degree situation. Or am I completely misinterpreting how a fine/studio arts degree works? Iif it does work that way, is it possible for it to be useful? Or, do you think I would just be stuck with a bunch of 1 and 2 level courses that won't do me any good.

Thanks so much, you guys!!
posted by shesaysgo at 9:03 PM on November 16, 2010

information architect? You outline web and application structures and draft layouts of screens. Definitely a problem solving oriented type of designing.
posted by xammerboy at 10:02 PM on November 16, 2010

I was in the same boat a you. Here are a few suggestions:
User interface designer - You can design web sites and apps, which is as much a problem solving activity as it is a visual one. You can do this for a big company on their internal site, an agency, for their clients, or join a startup. Startups have a huge demand for this kind of talent.
Product manager - In a startup this is the person who decides what the product should do, what features to build in what order, interacts with users to see what's working and what's not, and works with the design and engineering team to make it happen
Design consultant - There are many design-oriented firms that work on business problems for their clients and invent new products, businesses or processes. You are paid to be a problem solver for clients. Look up places like IDEO or Frog Design
Start your own business - You can take one of your design skills, narrow it down to appeal to a specific audience that both wants your skills and has the ability to pay for them, and start some kind of business, whether it be graphic design, consulting, interior design, or something else
posted by lsemel at 12:51 AM on November 17, 2010

The problem there is that I have no knowledge of the field. - this shouldn't hold you back - the basics aren't that complicated, and can be learned with a little research - and there are a lot of courses that teach animation and visual effects - here is a good one that is just outside Toronto. A lot of people find their way into visual effects through film courses, or television and media courses. it's definitely a field that you start at the bottom and work your way up - so most of your learning happens on the job. A person who is talented and driven can go from visual effects to anywhere - the director of District 9, for example, started as a VFX animator. Stuff to consider before choosing a career in film - and depending on your personality, they might suit you just fine - the hours are unpredictable - you might go from working 14 hours a day to having weeks off, depending on how much work is available at the time. If you like travelling, a lot of companies hire people for short-term contracts, so you can work in a lot of different cool places. If you do VFX for tv or commercials, though, it's possible to get a more regular job. The pay isn't great at first, but hard work will pay off, and can be pretty good after a few years - experience counts for a lot. The work is always different, there's a lot of teamwork, and the people are amazing - intelligent, talented, creative, and after finishing a big job, often quite drunk.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:21 AM on November 17, 2010

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