10 Tips to keep up as an Industrial Design student |TIP 114

If you have decided to join a Design School, get ready to sleep less. 😉 You will face new challenges and obstacles that drive you to change your daily habits for an exciting Design journey.

I list a number of difficulties or situation you may meet during your journey, and hopefully give you some useful tips to help you overcome them.

First of all, I would like to congratulate  Riju who has just been admitted in a Design School to study Product design – and asked me the following question:

Riju Motivation Design School work[4]

Q: How to keep up as a Design student ?

1- Keep faith, keep going.

Dyson - Failure is necessary
Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his savings over a 15-year span.

“It’s only those who do nothings that make no mistakes, I suppose.”
– Joseph Conrad

There is 2 category of people. Those who focus:

  1. On the pain of learning.
  2. On all the new stuff they will be able to do.

– Which category are you ?

  • The 1st category tend to think “too much” being analytical and love doubting wondering if there learning method is the best, if what they produce is good enough, if there is better ways to learn…and so on. They want to prevent the pain of wasting there time and effort. They will get ready to learn only if everything will be clear and known in advanced. There is nothing wrong to try to understand the context. But these questioning paralyse students and push them in an infinite procrastination.
  • The 2nd category is positive and passion driven. They understand that the global system is not perfect, but they are open to grab all the new principles and details along the learning journey. That category of student keep going and will do whatever it takes to succeed.

Unfortunately, there is a correlation between “The students who fail the most and who complain the most…”.

2– Target the top 10%.

Cycling race

Cycling race.

A good number of students get average marks and study for the sake of passing there diploma. Depending of your school, an average level is enough to pass your exam. But  it may not be enough to get your dream designer position after graduation. Why ? because professionals don’t look at your marks, but your portfolio. The profile who tend to succeed the most are the one who are self-driven and have a vision of themselves. It’s ok if you don’t have it at start. Work toward it and you will gain confidence.


Don’t be average, target being in the top 10% !
Let yourself be animated by your inner passion for Design. This will push you to higher levels. The marks will follow. If you see that you level is higher than average, take some time to help your pairs and lift them up !


All of us soon or later will slow down during the journey. You will need courage to overcome it and get up fast. A good way to do so, is to remember how excited you was when you received a call or a letter from your school that your were admitted. Your seat at that school is not granted. You fought to get the right to study there. Make your learning in that school meaningful.

Keep in mind these 2 words : Passion and persistence.

3- Don’t study for a job, but a passion.

Inspiration from the world
Inspiration from the world.

A design school is an environment that has nothing compared to any “classic” school of business, engineering, accountancy… and so on. To make it simple, a designer doesn’t aim to work from specific shift from 8am to 6pm. A designer is 24 hours connected to his surrounding from what he sees, feels, hears, eat… His source of inspiration can come from anywhere.
I receive some message from some of you guys who study Engineering, but get somehow bored of feel having taken the wrong path. I can feel your passion when you talk about Design. If you choose
Design, there is chance that it will be part of your daily lifestyle.


Take a camera with you and shot anything inspires you. Start to build an image database.


Cut down your social media and emails during the day. Check it one or two times a day will do. Even if you are bored. “Do NOT depend on your phone to get distracted.” Instead, use your imagination. Enjoy looking at people around you. Look at how they live, stand talk each other, what interaction do they have. Remember that a designer is an Observer. Take some paper and sketch them. Please, “feel the REAL world that vibrates around you instead of looking down on your phone.” 


To enhance your senses: I believe a designer gain in potential if he travels. His imagination will be “richer” being fed by diversity. What is true in a certain culture may not be in an other. If you can, ask your school if they have partnership with foreign universities. The foreign school fees should be free.

eg: For my personal case, my major is Product design (Studied at Creapole-ESDI in Paris), and I took the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles and learn Fashion design for summer at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising), while my friends was having holiday. That experience enriched me in so many points: language barrier, autonomy, responsibility, safety, foreign culture understanding… this trip where I had so much fun is still part of me today.

4- Invest in yourself.

Open Source com
Build yourself – Opensource.com

You won’t meet your friends, girl/boyfriend or family as often as before. Best is you inform them about this situation to get there understanding (which is different of approval). If the people you love support you, your chance of success will rise. You will miss them, vice versa. But they will cheer you up to reach your goal.


Share with your surrounding what you do. Inform them that you will need to need a lot of time for yourself, and you are sorry if you may appear selfish. You won’t be able to allocate as much time as before to your relatives and friends. However, if there is anything important you will be there to support them as well as they support you.

5- Get rid of your eye bag.

Tea bags Eye bag
Relax your eyes with tea bags – Wiki How.

On top of your weekly planning, you will have to allocate a big number of hours for your homework. Get ready to reduce your number of sleeping hours. I still remember myself finishing my homework after a whole night of rush, printing the boards, paste them delicately on the foam board, cut them and bring them on the subway – doing the rehearsal of my speech in my head and get ready to be present the same day.


Such thing will happen to you a couple of time per year (or month ?). I don’t recommend you guys to work that way every time if you don’t wanna meet the burnout. Even if it’s a great experience to work under pressure, keep it for special cases. The hint is simply being organized and respect the “luxury” time your teachers will give you. As a student we tend to do everything last minute – and mistakes love to appear when your attention is low and your time rush. Try to do not make it a habit, you will sleep better.

6- “I only want to show when it’s perfect !”

Matt Cavanagh Dominos
Matt Cavanagh-Dominos

For whom are perfectionist. It’s a dangerous skill. You have a high expectation on your work, but you may not be able to finish your project on time. The worst thing that could happen for a professional is to do not show up the Day of the client presentation. If your time is limited, learn how to make concession, and look for ways to get things done good and fast instead of spending too much time on details.


At start, you may not have the skills to have the greatest sketches. But you will learn to deliver on time with professional boards and presentation. Remember that the most important is to convey your message with a board that looks professional – ON TIME. Accept your weakness, and work on them along your next projects. But YOU have to deliver on time. At school, you are the only one concerned. In real life, many people depend of your work.

7- Intensive and overwhelming.Forex Rise
Forex Rising curve.

You will start learning a big amount of new stuff – from your class of technology, ergonomics, sociology, trend… and of course sketching. Your brain will be overwhelmed. Some days will be tougher than others. And when we get overwhelmed, we tend to give up easily.


Keep going and keep making mistakes. Accept that making mistakes is part of of the learning process. Your curve of progression will go up and down, but if you look at the big picture, your effort will pay off and that curve will globally naturally go to the peak.

8- Believe in yourself

 Complexe Japan map
Complex map of Japan subway.

You may feel lost and see other student do better than you. Discouraged, you seams going no where. You think your are not made for that discipline, and wanna give up. If you feel in that situation, try to see WHY that situation affect you so much:

  • Are you wondering how you re gonna tell your parents you wanna quit ?
  • Are you wondering what people will think about you if you give up?
  • Or are you feeling sad because you feel you can’t achieve your dream.


If the answer is the last one, then please keep faith and fight for it. Remember that:

“Every artist was first an amateur.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can only succeed if you believe in it. Get back to the game, and continue to fail. It’s ok, why ? Because everyday you grow a bit more. There will be a moment that you will know enough and get an exponential growth.

9- Blaming others.

Blaming others

At start, we may keep failing and tend to be discouraged. The school fee is expensive and our expectation is super high. And it become “easy” to blame the school, the teachers, the non inspirational room we rent… for our failure. But remember that a school don’t know any magic trick – most of the results will come from you. “Take the school like a guidance, a coach.”

A quick reminder from a previous article is to make sure to do enough research about the school you apply. It’s not because that school is expensive that means it’s a good place to learn. It may just be a great scam. (Don’t be impressed by a school having the latest computers and technologies. What count most is your teachers knowledge and ability to cheer you up).


Keep your ears in alert. Remember what your teachers say. Some of the precious stuff I learnt has been told once only.

10- Compete with the outside world, and team up with your pairs.

star wars

The outside world is constantly in competition. However, make your school a place of sharing and fair competition to study in a safe environment.


Make your pairs your partners – and your fair competitors.You guys will grow much faster working hand on hand. Trying to challenge your pair, you will discover new things before the others, and be glad to share with them, vice versa.

If you are also student in a Design school, share with us your difficulties and your solution in the comments below ! 🙂

About The Author


Hello! My name is Chou-Tac. I am a Product Designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim to help you all along with your design projects and journey. Anytime, feel free to leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com : )


  • keerthana

    Reply Reply September 22, 2017

    hi, really liked the article and its just what I needed.
    I am a third year design student and the problem I face very often is that sometimes I get sad and feel like why we need so many innovations which we know are not going to last forever. I know this is a continuous learning proccess but sometimes I just feel like we are just adding up to the heap useless products.For example we have an assignment to design a flashlight, but whats the point? all of use our phones today! What should I do to keep my self from overthinking and not feel like im designing something useless?

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply September 22, 2017

      Hello Keerthana,

      As you are in school, each course has its own purpose.

      I believe the flashlight is a sketching exercise to train your perspective and cylinders.

      By choosing a common product, your teacher might expect you to train on these skills.

      A good motivation factor is to look at : What am I going to learn from this. Instead of: What am I losing by doing this. Sometime our expectation is high. But to progress, we gonna accept that no system is perfect. And take all the good things we can from it. 🙂

      My school also were far to be perfect. I could have chosen complaint all day. Instead I choose GRATITUDE.

      About innovation. True that there might have a lot of new “useless” product coming on the market.

      However, once again, the world keep evolving and getting better. To do so, it needs failure and iteration.

      If you don’t wanna feel designing something useless, always create having your users in mind FIRST. Then you define their needs, problems you be able to solve. Look at their VALUES. Look at what is MEANINGFUL to them. So you can improve their life, and best of it, creating a product that is also eco conscious if you can.

      There is no unique answer for your problem.
      However, I hope it helps at least a little. 🙂


      PS: You may look for flashlight where a phone is not the best usage.
      Maybe for Police force, Forest, Firefighters, explorers, spy 😛 … ? And so on. 🙂

  • Gil

    Reply Reply May 19, 2017

    Can you learn to sketch professionally even if you can’t draw a straight line?

  • Rajat

    Reply Reply January 16, 2017

    Very nice article,I got lot from this as even I have entered into a design clg and still a first year. I face problems while drawing objects in perspective, I know perspective but implementing them to draw objects I get them wrong, is there any help I can get for it?

  • Koleos

    Reply Reply January 29, 2016

    As a 2d/3d selftaught artist I’d like to encourage future designers with my story.For design education I didn’t have money when I was teenager,so this stayed for me just as a hobbie.I had to finish some school even I didn’t like it,but it had some connection with my passion for cars,so I finished secondary school for car mechanic.School lasted 3 years and I saw I’m not for it and there is no passion for me like for design I have.When I finished that school I promissed to myself that I will continue with chasing my real dreams.When you finish school you must find a job and work,so I worked mostly on seasonal agricultural heavy works.I wasn’t very confident back then,so most of the people didn’t encouraged me in my design path and some of them still don’t.My passion for design moved me and I was very persistent and determined to continue with my mission.Yes without school it was very hard,back then I didn’t have internet,there was no books about design in my country.Sometimes there were some documentaries on tv about design,or b&w car design illustrations in car magazines.These were my only sources for inspiration and car show too.Back then there were popular pastels,markers and airbrush.So I bought me,a layout,some kind of markers,pastels and started to imitate what I saw and thought designers do.For me it was very fun,even it was bad,but for me I was the best.Today I know I had no clue what I was doing,when I watch on youtube and blogs like this.This analog mania didn’t last to long,cause without proper education there was no progress in my work.Without knowing fundamentals like perspective,proportion,form,etc,my drawings looked awful even I had original ideas.Without proper guidance,I was lost.Then I thought I could be better in presenting my ideas,if I buy me a computer and start to create 3d models.So it was new and even harder challenge for me.Fortunately I could buy a book about 3d modeling,so I progressed much faster.From the other hand I wanted to know a lot,then I had gaps in my knowledge.I wanted to learn,modeling,rendering,particles,animation,so I spreaded out a lot and I lost a lot of years.When I bought me internet connection and opennned my mind ,I learned I must focus on one branch first and master it.So I focused myself on 3d modeling with some rendering and lighting technics.Then I decided to try with another 3d software,because they constantly updated it and I was curious.It was and still is blender 3d software,everything what I learned from 3ds max I tried to use in blender3d 2.35 version was then.In blender there is one a must learn rule,one hand on mouse and second on keyboard shortcuts,this rule created sped in my workflow.It took me a lot to memorize all of this,but today I’m creating my 3d models and sell them on online 3d markets.Thanks to my 3d modeling skills,I also could invest in graphic tablet and CAD software moi3d,which I’ve got from my clients instead of money.My CAD software is somewhat like rhinoceros lite version.I used rhinoceros 3d,when I worked as graphic and industrial packaging designer for one year.When I saw that different aproach of creating very accurate and beautiful 3d forms with NURBS modeling,I promissed to myself I will buy something like this someday,so I told to my client to buy me moi3d software.And yes I had polygonal and cad skills,but there was no progress in my designs.After learning all of the 3d modeling stuff,I decided to start to learn sketching with graphic tablet and to learn my favorite sketching software Sketchbook pro.I like realistic 3d models,but I always admired to 2d illustrations created by industrial designers with markers,photoshop or with sketchbook pro software.It took me about a month to learn to watch at screen and to pull my digital pen on my desk.It was fun,there was some progress,but something was missing.So I went to youtube to check it out some videos about industrial design sketching,then I found idcreatures,Scott Robertson,Sycra and other video tutorials from many great concept artists.I saw what was missing in my skills,and that was design and art fundamentals.I started to learn that with open mind,because when I was to confident and listened to myself there was no progress a lot.I learned that on very hard way.
    I think design students are blessed because they’ve got the chance to study about what they are passioned about.So when ever you think about quiting your dream journey,remember what you can loose by quiting it.From the other hand today I’m more mature now,I have more experience good and bad,so maybe when I was teenager and had the opportunity to study design maybe those perspective drawings and all the analog stuff would be borring for me too.When I was younger I also had more nerves for smaller details,today I’m passioned more when creating main body forms,otherwise I tend to procrastinate.On this blog I found the reasons for my procrastination.I learned a lot from youtube videos,payed tutorials,but I’m here on this blog to learn even more because design is my greatest passion.Never stop learning and practicing your design skills.Learn new software skills,if you get in to routined job or you need to refresh your creativity.I believe there will be always something new to learn about design,which will always spark your imagination,even when you getting old.

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply February 2, 2016

      Hello Koleos,

      I enjoy your motivation, and keep going even though you know the path is not has smooth as we could wish – and no matter what other people say.

      All the best for your Design journey 🙂
      Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

      See you !

  • renata

    Reply Reply April 1, 2015

    nice article Chou-Tac
    Working with and not against

  • Chetan Yadav

    Reply Reply March 28, 2015

    I can relate to the 8th point very well…It’s sometimes really hard and discouraging!

    • Chetan Yadav

      Reply Reply March 28, 2015

      Yes, I’m trying to be in the game. Thanks 🙂

  • wat

    Reply Reply March 28, 2015

    I can’t state enough how investing will have massive returns. Buy a strong PC/laptop and pirate the hell out of all the software and video tutorials you can get your hands on!

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