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February 23, 2023 by

Ever wonder what industrial design is? Did you even know Cedarville offered it? 

I sure didn’t. 

Yet, it’s a career that permeates practically everything you touch. 

Did you make coffee this morning? Did you pick up a sharpie? Did you drive your car? 

All of these have been touched by the hand of an industrial designer. Industrial design (ID) lives at the center of business, engineering, and art. It encompasses many areas, from products to transportation to packaging! Function, aesthetics, production costs, and usability are typically considered during the development process. Put simply, we are visual problem-solvers. We use a myriad of tools, such as design thinking, consumer insights research, rapid sketch ideation, prototyping, 3D CAD modeling, presentations, and marketing product launches to shape the future. If I’ve learned anything in my five years of pursuing ID, it’s that there’s still so much to learn. 

You must adopt a beginner’s mindset. 

Contemplating Industrial Design 

Curious if you have what it takes to become an industrial designer? Well, I’m here to share that you probably do. As silly as it seems, I chose industrial design because it’s light on the math requirements and there’s no blood. While this was just my perspective as a junior in high school, it still rings true today. Since then, I have realized there are so many more reasons God placed me in ID. I wish I had known then that ID is a way to truly mimic the Creator. You have the opportunity to reach people in a unique way: understand their needs, work to solve complex problems, and provide innovative solutions. 

Living Life as an Industrial Design Student 

Life at the International Center for Creativity or ICC for short (the branch campus of Cedarville University) is understandably different than your typical college setting. For two years you get to live, learn, and laugh with some of your closest friends. The ICC is based in Columbus, Ohio, and is a prime spot for learning ID [to be explained further in a future post from one of my fellow classmates]. The ICC creates a unique environment for learning and entering the job market, as you’re taught four main disciplines: product, transportation, interior space, and exterior space design. The ICC does whatever’s necessary to bring the best education to you. That means learning from designers all over the world who are currently working in the industry. All of the staff want to see you succeed. 

Now, I need to step back for a brief disclaimer. Year to year, the next class of students is, without fail, better than the previous class. It’s one of the many things I love about the ICC. The classes are always being revised and improved based on feedback and industry trends. I have the joy of attending Bible study with a 2019 ICC grad and an ICC ‘24 student. We’re able to connect on our shared experiences, but what’s amazing to see is how much better the class of ‘24 will be (already is) than my class of ‘22. The classes I took in 2020 have already been revised and improved to better prepare the students. I hear about them and think, “Man, that would’ve been so cool to learn at that point. I see how that would’ve set me up better for X class my senior year.” Yet, at the same time, I look back and think, “I’m so lucky the ICC is constantly revising and giving their students the best.” Innovation would be dead if we all stayed stagnant. 

Your junior year is really focused on building skills — sometimes skills you didn’t even know you had. Worried about your sketching abilities? They teach you how to sketch like an industrial designer. Worried about coming up with ideas? By the end of the first class, I had drawn 200-plus different chair designs. It’s possible. Worried about public speaking and sharing your ideas? I’ve had the joy of witnessing even the most flustered public speakers become confident in their abilities. This list could go on and on. These skills and more were practiced in a combination of exercises and hypothetical projects that could easily have been real-world design briefs. Second semester you continue growing those skills with more complex projects. I had the opportunity to grow my leadership, prototyping, and ideation skills. One of the projects I got to work on was packaging designs for a large company. A group of us was able to fly to their headquarters and present our findings and design concepts. By the end of junior year, I was able to look back in utter amazement at the sheer number of skills I had learned in such a short time. 

Industrial Design sketches that student, Sarah Lacey, worked on her junior year.

Senior year you get to really put those skills you labored over to use! And, of course, more learning! Immediately, you’re immersed in the transportation class — a whole new set of skills. It is such a neat opportunity to work with car designers and create a scale clay model of your design. (Disclaimer: I was not on a clay modeling team. I had the option to develop my logistical, leadership, and overall concept skills). The projects for your last year are more comprehensive and allow you to focus on certain skills you want to grow, and often involve real clients. For instance, my classmates and I got to work with the town of Cedarville on a revitalization project. This project encompassed both interior and exterior design. As a class, we were able to provide our client with eight different and unique design directives they could use to revitalize downtown. Another, yet often overlooked class, is an introduction to business and ethical practices of design. To a lot of designers, it’s not the fun, glamorous stuff, but believe me, it’s quite helpful once you’re in a job. Last, but not least, your time at the ICC culminates in 10 intense weeks working on an approved project of your own choosing. Capstone season has begun. This is the time to choose a project that highlights your skills, pursue an area you enjoy, or partner with a company. For me, that looked like a deep dive into researching road cycling safety and providing insights and design suggestions. For fellow classmates, it was a time to research and design tools for kids with anxiety. It was an opportunity to dream of a future where you can control your digital life. It was a space to redesign a family’s home to better suit their needs as they navigate disabilities. I stand in awe at the crazy amount of talent my fellow classmates and I developed in two years, and I love being able to cheer them on as we enter this next chapter. 

Industrial Design sketches by student, Sarah Lacey, her senior year. 

Entering the Professional World as an Industrial Designer 

Looking back, I realize the ICC prepared me so well for post-college life. Not only did I develop the foundational skills needed for the industry, but I got a glimpse of how the professional world functions. Unlike your traditional college setting where every day looks completely different, the ICC is solely focused on design for two years. Every day you start class at 9 a.m., with the exact same people, take a lunch break, come back for the afternoon class that goes until 3:30 p.m., and have the rest of your evening to spend it how you see fit. This gives you the chance to manage your own time, which is a crucial life skill. Of course, most of this “extra” time is spent working in the studio. One of the scariest things the ICC taught me was to fail. Fail forward. Make mistakes, take risks, learn. Fail and pick yourself back up and learn from it. This has been so helpful to me in my job as I’m thrown into an industry I have next-to-no knowledge in. Ask questions, try, learn. On the project side of it, I’ve learned to make multiple quick prototypes. You can get so much further with five quick prototypes than laboring forever to get one perfect one. You might even surprise yourself and learn something new in the process. In so many ways, the ICC is able to mimic a professional office environment in the midst of an educational setting. I wasn’t shocked by much when I entered my job after college and for that, I have the ICC to thank. I will forever be grateful for the time I had at the ICC. My ICC family taught me to embrace the skills God has given me, be able to pivot and change direction, and to run after the underlying reasons for the problem. 

Yet, in it all, I am still learning, still asking questions to better understand, and still adopting a beginner’s mindset. 

Industrial Design class of 2022, posing together at their graduation.

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