Breaking into Design
Question for the CAD / Design guys( and girls ) out there;
I got into the cabinetmaking/millwork trade in 1999 as a builder and now would like to attempt to move up ( laterally ? ) in the industry.
Is Design work a good area to be thinking about in terms of marketability and the prospect of advancing my pay scale?
I'm a college grad in an unrelated field , so I have a brain and would like to use it more ... not to mention I'd rather not be sucking dust and heavy lifting into my 60's as I've seen so many "old timers" hit the wall.
What training would you all recommend ?
I've heard many supervisors and shop owners lament the need for design guys that actually know how to build , limitations of materials, joinery , etc.
( P.S. Not digging on design guys, just seems that someone with extensive experience in the hands on fabrication process would have an edge. )
10/1/13 #2: Breaking into Design ...
The minute I sense a lack of respect for anyone who as a matter of being on a team and producing Income for all involved, and I am speaking from the Apprentice to the older and fully experienced who by their own choices are were they are in life. then this Interview would last about as long as it take to get the prospect out the door. Good Luck is usually all I am willing to say to them !
10/1/13 #3: Breaking into Design ...
Most designers I know are also the salesperson that meets w/ the client. So, being able to sell goes hand in hand with being a designer. I was an installer and wanted to move into something else. My boss unexpectedly offered me a sales/designer position that was a great experience.
I heard long ago that no matter what trade or business you are in that becoming a salesman in that field was one of the ways someone could increase their income and I think that is true.
I joined the NKBA and attend meetings when I can. Mentally it is a whole different game than being in the field or shop. Dealing directly with clients and seeing their dreams become reality and knowing you were a large part of it can be very rewarding but it also can be frustrating when all your goodwill and design work do not produce a sale.
If you are drawing for other designers or producing shop drawings in CAD then maybe the sales thing does not apply but otherwise it all comes down to sales. I have seen people produce great drawings but could not move enough clients to sign.
My advice is to go for it. What is the worst that can happen? Maybe you find that the office is not the place for you. I would think there would be an open door for you in the shop again. That kind of happened to me when during the recession the company had to reduce the designers on staff. I ended up being offered a job back in the field. Good luck with your decision!!
10/2/13 #4: Breaking into Design ...
Andrew, I might add that the NKBA just started a professional development path for the different parts of the kitchen and bath industry. This is in addition to the various certified kitchen and bath designer courses that are not just a rubber stamp. They can be hard to pass. Starting off with the associate learning path would be a great way to start. www.nkba.org
10/2/13 #5: Breaking into Design ...
James, I'm not sure I quite get you're point. Are you assuming I'm being disrespectful to others in some way ? I'm confused.
Mike, thanks for the info.
I looked around on the NKBA site, but failed to find anything about any professional development path. Do you have any more specific information ?
10/2/13 #6: Breaking into Design ...
Not sure if you are disrespectful to others, we are on the internet and I cannot see more than one writes. I am by no means the end al do all to the business but I have worked hard and have met my share of really talented woodworkers, draftsmen and all others who make up the Income stream that feeds us, I outsource all my larger drawings to a couple of fellows who are doing what you think you would like, in no way have I ever heard a mutter of disdain from them about the men who produce the work that produces the money which pays them their livelihood. I hope I am wrong and if I am good, but if I am right then the path to your success could be far easier. If you notice you are not getting hired for any reason and no one is telling you why then don't rule out this conversation.
10/3/13 #7: Breaking into Design ...
Don't let James get under your skin. He's just being maudlin about how life ought to be. He is right that everybody in every position is important but to wax eloquent about the nobel beast is to ignore that many, if not most, beasts of burden are that way because they choose to be.
You should be applauded for your efforts to improve yourself and make yourself relevant for the future. I would guess that less than 2% of all people working in a position that has low barriers to entry don't spend ten minutes in a week, at their own expense, trying to improve their skill set. If you pick a career that can be done by an 18 year old you are going to be working for the wages of a 20 year old when you are 50.
All that being said I think you should try to figure out where the hockey puck will be rather than where it is right now. CAD is just an arrow in your quiver. The thing to learn is how to communicate in all forms of media. The world isn't flat any more. Many of us on this forum still need to get comfortable with that idea.
10/3/13 #8: Breaking into Design ...
First, I would separate the term design from engineering. I have a designer, and I also use designs from others. Design is a necessary part of the project, but a designed set of cabinets is not a buildable set of cabinets.
I have two CAD draftsman that are 2 of the 3 highest paid workers in my company, the third being my shop foreman. So you are correct that moving into CAD will either be a lateral or vertical move.
As far as the type of CAD, 3D is here to stay. All of my work is drawn in 3D, and it gives me a huge competitive advantage. Drawing in 3D is slower, so as the industry moves to 3D it will need to replicate draftsman to the tune of perhaps double the quantity that are working today.
Having shop experience is extremely valuable in a 3D draftsman as every single part is drawn just as a part would be created on the shop floor. Understanding how individual parts are constructed, how parts go together to make an assembly, and the ability to engineer a part with an eye towards the guy who ultimately has to make it are valuable assets.
Any 3D program will do, there's no way to tell which 3D program a future employer will use. You can learn the basics for free starting with Sketchup.
10/3/13 #9: Breaking into Design ...
Andrew, under the nkba.org go to 'kitchen and bath courses' on the right. Then it goes into the nkba university page and there is all sorts of info there including a self test quiz.
Also good advice from the others. I would add that I have sensed from the comments on woodweb that many of the guys that participate here have or work in a shop or the business has a shop as opposed to having a showroom and purchasing cabinets from a shop or dealer.
I only say this because when I go to the nkba meetings it seems most are designer/dealers who have several lines of cabinets from other manufacturers. So, the nkba is geared more toward these designers and the use of catalog based design programs such as 20-20. Just my observation. I still think if actual kitchen and bath design and layout are your interest it would be a great resource.
I have worked with some designers w/ interior design background and they seem to be able to take a design to another level integrating wood, stone, fabric and color to make those magazine cover kitchens you see. I don't have that gift but with other subs help we do ok.
Maybe taking a few interior design courses would benefit you also. If I were not smack in the middle of raising children I think I would do the NKBA learning path and also take some interior design courses. I hope to some day. Let us know how you procees and good luck, mike
10/3/13 #10: Breaking into Design ...
I have done exactly what you are suggesting, though what I do is more on the engineering side, not design.
I moved 'into the office' for two basic reasons:
1) I wanted to get out of the shop while I still had all my fingers.
2) I wanted to move UP in the industry (as opposed to 'over') as a career move for the benefit of my family.
I would suggest you talk to your current employer and share your desire. Most will jump at the chance to get an experienced cabinetmaker behind the computer for reasons stated already. I also suggest you look at local community college CAD training. My employer agreed to pay the cost, if I invested the time. I have used that opportunity to move up to management level responsibilities and my pay has nearly tripled since I was in the shop. Of course, the stress has increased proportionally too. :o)
If your employer wont pay the cost, you should do it yourself any way, and then find another employer.... though that may not be easy these days.
Best of luck. What you are thinking about is a smart career move and can certainly lead to much bigger and better thing$.
One of the best things about it is knowing CAD, and doing it well opens up career opportunities far beyond the woodworking industry. I am often contacted by individuals I know in the Civil field, Architectural and Structural engineering firms, Mechanical, etc. So far though, no one from Pixar has called me. :o(
10/5/13 #11: Breaking into Design ...
What software are you using?
10/6/13 #12: Breaking into Design ...
As a 56 year old 'old timer' in the business for 38 years, I would think that after actually working in the shop you would have more respect for me and my old timer buddies. Unlike you, we didn't have the options you have today. I have been designing with Cabinet Vision since the mid '80's when it was a DOS program. I went to cnc 9 years ago and have become very effecient with Cabinet Pro CNC software as well as V Carve Pro. Guess what. I can still build cabinets in the shop, install as needed and clean the bathroom as necessary. Unlike the 'designers' of today, I don't make my living off of other people's talents! If you want to sell boxes, got to work for Lowes and learn 20/20. If you want a foundation to be a REAL designer then follow Jim McGrew a while and learn what we real
'old timers' do!
10/6/13 #13: Breaking into Design ...
The OP has already been on the construction side for 14 years. I think it's fair to say he's eaten enough sawdust to qualify as an experienced hand. There's not a whole lot of difference between the 38th year and the 28th year except as you get older your eyesight starts to fail, your back hurts, your knees won't hold you up and you're slower than you used to be.
I think it is a great thing that this guy can look ahead and prepare now for the future. Just because someone is a salesman does not mean they make their living off the talents of others. Somebody has to shoot the bear before somebody can skin it and I would say most of the "talented" guys don't have the skills it takes to shoot that bear.
After 38 years how relevant would you be today if you didn't acquire the computer skills you did?
10/6/13 #14: Breaking into Design ...
Kieth we got a Big picnic for St Stephens Of Ridgeway at the farm in Centerville tomorrow, ya'll come on over !
10/6/13 #15: Breaking into Design ...
For those out there that have offered constructive opinions and advice ; Thank You. Much appreciated.
The formal training programs I've looked into thus far ( community college and tech vocational schools ) don't seem to have individual courses that cater to this industry specifically. How does one learn Microvellum, Solidworks, Cabinetvision, or any other programs that are specific to the industry ? I suppose it simply takes a leap of faith to just get out there and receive some training and hope it will develop form there. Is it a matter of applying for entry level drafting positions and trust that "Acme Cabinet Shop" will take me under their wing and tailor whatever base knowledge I have at that point and collect experience and knowledge that I can add to my resume' ?
10/6/13 #16: Breaking into Design ...
Andrew. the cad designers i know learned CAD early on in college. I do know our local community college offers cad courses for those of us already in the work force.
But when it comes to the more industry specific programs such as the ones you mention it seems like the guys just learned as they went. They decided on a program for their business and then played around with it and gained proficiency. They may or may not have used the company training or support. Of the shops i am familiar with 1 uses CAD but only for design and shop drawings although i see that increasing as the son is just out of college and taking on more responsibility. One uses MV and one uses KCDW but only once in a while for design. Another still draws by hand and does manual lists. None use CNC. As you mentioned i think you need to find a shop that you can get into as a beginner designer and just learn their program and if you change jobs there is no guarantee you may not need to learn another program.
One question i have for the others- does CAD produce color or photo realistic renderings or is that mainly for the MV, 20-20 and other software.
10/8/13 #17: Breaking into Design ...
I saw your post and just wanted to let you know about KCD Software. We are a CAD program that allows you to draw custom Units and create a 3D presentation. KCD will allow you to change a design on the fly, then give you a 3D presentation. KCD is easy to use and we offer FREE Technical support NO maintenance or annual fees. If this is something you are interested in give us a call, 508-760-1140.
Have a Great Day,
10/12/13 #18: Breaking into Design ...
As others have said, you want to move more into the engineering end, as well as CNC programming. There aren't a lot of really good cnc programmers, imo. When you're really good, you can write your own ticket.That's where you can make the most money, if your good. Someone mentioned about spending your own time learning. This is mandatory if you want to advance. Regardless of how long you've been doing this, you should be learning new things constantly.
A lot of large shops don't do any design. They receive drawings from an architect or designer, and go from there. Someone really skilled should be able to take those drawings, and figure out how to build the product in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. Then program the CNC machines to cut and machine the required parts, as fast and efficient as possible. If you can take off and order materials, even better. Learn how to take fullest advantage of your software. The better you know your CAD and CAM software, the better off you'll be. There are a million kids out there claiming to know how to do CAD work. Next to none of them have the skills to get you a high paying job. Learn, learn, learn. And don't stop.
10/19/13 #19: Breaking into Design ...
Andrew, I will second the sales training. If you are going to be doing anything that is dealing with the final customer. I see one of they key elements of design is to be able to look at a space and have the abilty to see how it will look, know how to build it and communicate that with the customer in a timely fashion.
For sales training, anything and everything by Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy is good as well along with How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
For cad programs, a lot of it translates from one program to another so you can build fundamentals one one and pick up another. Personally my dreams designer sales person would walk through the door and know cabinet vision and be able to close 60-70% of the quotes he runs with a goal to sell 1 million a year. I would pay that designer about $125a year
9/26/15 #20: Breaking into Design ...
I spent 30 years in the industry. From student, to benchmans helper, machinest, installer, finisher, Cabinet Vision/ AutoCAD draftsman/cnc programmer, project manager, to business owner. Before shops went computer, the machinests were the dudes. They could take paper, pencil, calculator, figure out from the blueprints how to cutbill a job of any difficulty, cut it, help build it and advise installer how to put it all together. So those guys were the ones in line to draw and program jobs to cnc as computers and machines progressed over the years. Yes it is important for a good project engineer to know how to build projects, but also know the process in finishing, delivery, install. To cutbill a job, one has to know how it all is going to be built, taken apart, delivered to hard to get to place, up stairs or elevators without damage, and installed properly. So getting that office job may very well start with autocad classes, and mechanical cad classes if you are going to be working in a production environment where 100s or 1000s identical products are produced. If you are working in a cabinet shop, then most likely Cabinet vision. Pay attention to lead installers feedback. That's were many problems show up from a project engineer not knowing all the details of an install. Design guy is not a term I heard of over the years. Shop draftsmen redraw the architects blueprints into shop drawing for resubmittal back to the architect and customer or contractor. But draftsman don't concern themselves of the details a project engineer/cnc programmer would get into.