How Do I Transition to a Product Designer?

How Do I Transition to a Product Designer?

Maxwell Ryan
Apr 4, 2012

Q: Hi Maxwell, I love your Apartment Therapy meet-ups and have been deeply inspired by the stories presented each meeting. They have been so inspiring in fact, that I have decided to make a move I've always wanted to make and evolve from an artist/graphic designer to a product designer for tabletop.

I trust you are extremely busy, but I hoped to ask a personal career question: How do I get there from here?

I am a mid-career art director/designer with roots in the fine arts. My combined experience with art and design spans almost 25 years, and while it gives me useful tools to approach product design with, it does not equal a full skill set. Suggestions on how to get there from here? Should I plan on going back to school, find an internship (where?), or? Currently I don't have any peers that work in this space so I am at a loss for direction. Because you know so many successful people in this space, I though to ask you advice. Thank you for your attention.

Sent by Laura


Thanks for your email and I wish I had a really good answer for you. I went to grad school in education and then put that to work when I started out as a designer. I learned the design trade on the job, but having some professional training really helped. School can definitely help you make the transition as you size up a career change and I would recommend it. I would also recommend interning and getting your feet wet in any way you can. Ultimately practical experience is the most important.

However, if you are already an accomplished professional in graphic design and have a resume, you may not need to go to school. You might want to just try shopping yourself around first and get some feedback. Informational interviews are really useful.

I also like the book (and used it) What Color is Your Parachute?

I would start by putting the word out there and come to the Design Evening and let's see if we can work some networking in there as well.

Best, Maxwell

Editor: Leave your suggestions for Laura in the comments - thanks!

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