Design Thinking

A Look Back: Industrial Design

I stumbled into Industrial Design. I was attending Montclair state and nearly finished my first year as a biology major. Like many other mothers from the Caribbean, mine was pushing me to study biology so that I could become a nurse.

I’d always had a love of design. I even studied it in high school. I still remember all my teachers, and our classes ranged from still life drawing, photography – digital and processing film, sculpture, air-brush, painting, and ceramics.

I had three years of doing what I enjoyed, then I was being pushed to study something I had no interest in pursuing. I thought of biology and nursing as dealing with blood, and sick people, being confined into white walls without windows, and “hospital smells” that people talked about. (I never really knew what they meant about hospital smells but I’m guessing it’s not good).

After struggling through two biology classes, far different from what it was like studying science and biology in high school,  I toured the art and design building on the college campus and found the advisor of design. At the time I was looking for something related to interior design or architecture. They didn’t have either of those programs but they did suggest I take a class in product design.

And boom I was introduced to a new world of design and making of things.

The more I learned about industrial design and product development the more I fell in love with it overall. I wanted to find a way to help people and enjoy what I was doing industrial design was the answer to that. After finishing my second year with professors who continuously reminded us of how much our sketching sucked, I transferred out. I wasn’t really learning and it didn’t make sense to me how the advisor of the program was teaching every class. Beginner to advance with no diversity in learning or teaching. When he did manage to find someone they weren’t committed to teaching since they were an adjuncts and had businesses outside of the university.

Someone planted a seed in my mind to take a leap of faith and transfer. I somehow managed to find a school upstate NY and convinced my mom to sign a loan and let me go to school out-of-state. My time there was interesting. It was upstate NY where I had my first encounter with racism, (and several others), it made me realize that I would experience a lack of diversity every time I walked into a room. I’d be challenged on my intellect, my understanding, and even the journey of completing a secondary degree.

There were countless times in which I wanted to quit. And each time my mom would say, “Just know you still have to pay those loans”. So I decided to push through, and make it out as best I could with the people who surrounded me.

When I look back those days weren’t so bad. I did hate Rochester and the never-ending changes of the weather, and the extra gloomy days and ridiculous rain pours. There were also moments of joy, like going to church with my roommate, or hosting a mini movie night and baking cookies or making delicious meals, or calling my cousin to stay up with me and pull all-night-ers via the phone as we sketched and mocked things up for our next project.

I believe the thing that I still love about industrial design (now known as product design) is that its a tool to solve problems for people: dynamically, creatively, profoundly, through service, design and collaboration. It forces you to learn new things and challenges you to solve issues creatively. This is what drew me into the field. There are so many subsets of what you can focus in on:

  • footwear
  • packaging
  • user interface design
  • automotive
  • furniture
  • house wares
  • wearable tech
  • electronics
  • medical devices
  • the list could go on and on.

I have this desire, this curiosity, this need to explore design and problem solving once more – without going back to grad school.

The photo in the image was a packaging design project in collaboration with other designers, and engineers.

I currently work in packaging design and really want to make the switch back into product design and development.


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