How long have you been an industrial designer and what is your schooling background?
I trained at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, graduating in 2003 with a BFA in industrial design. Growing up, I loved drawing and designing airplanes and spaceships, wanting to be an aerospace engineer. This was before I knew about industrial design. After a high school art class presentation for the CCS transportation program, I was hooked. I am now living the dream, designing cool new products and vehicles every day!
What are three traits that every industrial designer should excel in?
Creativity, Problem Solving and Visual Communications. Creativity and problem solving go hand in hand; where every product is a three-dimensional puzzle which needs to meet a list of physical and ergonomic requirements, and must be beautiful at the end of the day. Visual communications is extremely important, as is needed to sell your design to others. Traditionally we communicate through sketches and 3-D renderings, depending on the product and stage of completion.
Where do you go for inspiration at the beginning of a project or when creating concepts? Do you spend time researching online blogs, magazines, or print media?
The first step in the design process is competitive / comparative research. This helps to wrap our minds around a product's market. This is typically done by online searches, or in-store, depending on the product. For general design inspiration, I keep a stack of art and design books on my desk. I would also advise every designer to keep a "cool stuff" folder on their computer. Everything visually interesting you come across on the net should be kept here for future inspiration.
What software do you prefer? What program do you think is the most vital to know today?
The classics are Photoshop and Illustrator. For sketching and rendering I swear by Corel Painter with a 9"x12" Wacom tablet. When it comes to 3D modeling and rendering I use Rhino3D and Vray for the render engine. Every industrial designer should have some skills when drawing in the computer, as it is an extremely versatile tool. Knowledge in a 3D program is a necessity, as it enables you to communicate in 3 dimensions with engineers, and can produce photorealistic images and animations of your designs.