Recently, a junior high student in the Cincinnati area reached out to Kaleidoscope with questions about Industrial Design for a school project. Kaleidoscope Associate Creative Director of Industrial Design Karl Vanderbeek provided some sage advice we’d like to share with other students interested in entering the field. Here’s Karl’s tips for those considering becoming an Industrial Designer. 

1. Do you have any suggestions to help others prepare for the Industrial Design field?

how to become an industrial designerIndustrial Design is a mix of Art, Engineering, Inventing, Research and Marketing. A strong interest in these areas will help you succeed and also determine if it is right for you.

  • Art: You need this for two reasons.
    1. Industrial Design uses many theories found in art about color and form. An aesthetically pleasing form is not accidental. (Look up the “golden ratio” if you are not already aware of it.)
    2. Art provides the ability to communicate your new ideas. The designer’s best friend is the sketch – a quick way to draw and communicate your idea.
  • Engineering: You need knowledge of the materials and processes that make up products, such as injection molding plastic or casting metal.
  • Inventing: You need novel solutions oftentimes to solve these projects.
  • Research: You need to know what problems to solve – usually through observing or interviewing people.
  • Marketing: You need to know the degree of importance of the problem. Is solving a particular problem worth the cost?

Many Industrial Designers love to explore how products are made and why, and that involves many of the disciplines listed above.

My go-to suggestion is to carry around a sketch book. Draw in it, and capture thoughts and ideas. Also, 3D CAD tools are an essential part of an Industrial Designer’s work. Check out Autodesk’s Fusion 360. It is a professional-level CAD program that is free for students.

2. What are your biggest challenges in your career?

how to become an industrial designerListed above are a lot of competing viewpoints. If I want to design a new object like a mouse, I need to consider what is comfortable, useful and manufacture-able, and what aesthetic would appeal to the user. Is it a new gamer mouse, or mouse in business? Working with others to find the right balance of compromises is a big challenge… but that leads to the next question.

3. What do you enjoy most about your job?

how to become an industrial designerI enjoy solving those challenges and exploring the trade-offs. In addition, I have always appreciated puzzles, and every project has a different set of puzzles. It is also a pleasure to collaborate and solve puzzles with others who also love unraveling those challenges.

4. How do you manage any stress that is a result of your work?

how to become an industrial designerSometimes the work can add up, but I find it incredibly rewarding. The most important thing I learned in managing stress is to not get into a stressful situation. I do that by thinking ahead and giving myself plenty of time for each of the tasks that I need to accomplish in the innovation process. Of course, this takes practice!

5. How did you decide to go into this career?

how to become an industrial designerI have always loved art and design, but never knew Industrial Design existed until I was applying for programs at colleges. As a kid, I enjoyed taking apart my toys, inventing and building new gadgets, and drawing. I never knew that could be a career. When I discovered that Industrial Design included all of this and more, there was no doubt that was what I wanted to learn and do!


Good luck, and let me know how I can help!