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Thread: To work for a design firm do you need a design degree?

  1. #1

    To work for a design firm do you need a design degree?

    To work for a design firm, even a major one like HOK, does one need a design degree like a BLA, MLA or B.Arch, M.Arch? These are urban design and planning firms but there seem to be a lot of architects that work at these firms.

    Do planners with just an MUP work for these firms or do they need a secondary degree?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Do a search of those firms. Resumes are often posted.

  3. #3
    I am just saying in general, do urban design/planning firms require someone to have a design background as in a supplementary degree like an MLA or M.Arch?

    Would I be able to work in an urban design firm with just an MUP? Does anyone who works for one know of this?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by manoverde84 View post
    I am just saying in general, do urban design/planning firms require someone to have a design background as in a supplementary degree like an MLA or M.Arch?

    Would I be able to work in an urban design firm with just an MUP? Does anyone who works for one know of this?
    What type of "design firm" are you talking about? That is way to general a question. I worked for a "multi-disciplinary" design firm that had architecture, planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering and surveying. One of the large fries like HOK that are more skewed to architectural design,

    I mean, look up local job opportunities with private firms and ask what they are looking for or call. That's all it takes. Take some initiative versus arm-chair quaterbacking.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  5. #5
    Sorry I didn't know it was that general of a question. I just meant that if someone wants to work for a firm like you mentioned, one that takes a multi-faceted approach. would one need the intense design background?

    I will do the extra research on my own but RAF from your experience, from the private firms you've worked at, did people need an extra degree in design to do urban design? Not just work for a diverse firm but work in urban design. Would a concentration in UD suffice? Would taking an extra year of design courses suffice?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Design firms largely on merit. Employers, in this case senior designers, want to you know if you have the DESIGN skills under your belt to start the job and design. In the end, I don't care that you have an urban design concentration or a full fledged MLA. Things I would care about include graphics communication, basic CAD skills, site design, illustrations/renderings, etc. Can you get this without a design degree? I did. But I taught myself these skills over many years. Stop trying to find out the right mixture of formal education. Get out a pad and start doodling and scribbling and assemble a good portfolio and go from there. I highly recommend you set up informational interviews with designers.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Design firms largely on merit. Employers, in this case senior designers, want to you know if you have the DESIGN skills under your belt to start the job and design. In the end, I don't care that you have an urban design concentration or a full fledged MLA. Things I would care about include graphics communication, basic CAD skills, site design, illustrations/renderings, etc. Can you get this without a design degree? I did. But I taught myself these skills over many years. Stop trying to find out the right mixture of formal education. Get out a pad and start doodling and scribbling and assemble a good portfolio and go from there. I highly recommend you set up informational interviews with designers.
    + 1

    For the record, i don't have a MLA either or forma; "urban design concentration". Just a general BS in CRP and honed my skills in on the job and on projects through school.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  8. #8
    That's excellent and exciting news. Good thing I live in LA with close proximity to many planners and designers within my reach. I will take the initiative and start asking.

    UCLA has a local extension school I was planning on taking basic design courses before I start my MUP.

    Then again the local East LA College offers a great basics program at half the cost. I will take some of these courses on top of learning on my own.

  9. #9
    http://www.elac.edu/academic/doc/deg...rtificates.pdf

    East LA College offering courses for dirt cheap...

    Which of these programs would work best considering they're short term? Thanks.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Pick your top three from the catalog and post their complete descriptions.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  11. #11
    OK I am interested in the Arch Auto Cad skills certficate degree:

    1. Intro to Computer Aided Arch Drawing
    This is an introductory course where students learn the necessary concepts
    involved in the production of CAD-genera- ted architectural
    drawings using AutoCAD. Drawing setup, basic drawing and editing
    commands, layer control, text, dimensioning, hatching, and isometric
    drawings are covered.

    2. AutoCAD - Drafting
    This is the second course in a series of CAD classes using Auto- CAD.
    Advanced drawing and editing commands, blocks, attributes, image
    insertion, paper space and model space are covered. The semester ends
    with an introduction to 3D modeling.

    3. AutoCAD - Arch
    This is the third-semester course students learn three-dimensional
    concepts involved in making computer-aided drawings. Drawings are
    constructed using a microcomputer with appropriate software such as
    AUTOCAD. Students use workstations with a micro-computer, monitor,
    disk drives, digitizer, printer and plotter

    4.AutoCAD - ARch II
    This is the last course in a series of CAD classes where students are
    introduced to modeling, rendering and animation using Autodesk
    VIZ or similar software. Complex 3D modeling, lighting, shadows,
    materials, cameras, realistic effects, animations, and walkthroughs are
    covered

    http://www.elac.edu/academic/doc/11_...scriptions.pdf

    There is also the Associates in Arts Degree in Arch Drafting
    1. Arch Practice
    2. Equipment of buildings
    3. Construction Estimating
    4. Foundation of Design I
    5. Foundation of Design II

    Anyways, this is all speculative. I will meet with an advisor soon at the Arch department but I would like some feedback from the professionals in here. I linked all the course descriptions.

  12. #12
    There is also arch drawing i, arch drawin II

    Arch Design I and II

    and Portfolio development

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Personally, I would pick the first two on the list. Second, I would find a different program from a different school that combines both of them. Blocks, paper space, model space, etc. are the rudimentary components of AutoCAD drafting. Separating them over two courses is not doing you any good.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  14. #14
    http://www.laiad.com/LAIAD_ACADEMIC.html

    The grad prep program is supposed to be top notch but its super expensive. I calculated it at 800 bucks a month to attend.

    I just want to take advantage at the cheap courses at East LA College because they have just a good a rep of placing students into top arch programs.

    Basically am I looking for what fits the basics of an arch academic program or what fits a design background for general design work?

    So those two CAD courses split in two is not good? But at least taking CAD is vital? What about arch design, drawing, etc?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    I don't remember if you already have a college diploma or not. If you don't you will never move high in any firm with only an associates degree, and the same would go for practically any job in any field. If you already have a college diploma, take a couple of courses from that list you mentioned first, put together a portfolio, stop wasting our time on Cyburbia with 100 posts asking the same question, pound the pavement, work the room, and knock on doors.

    For the record, my top three picks are: Search Previous Posts From a Few Years Ago on Cyburbia 101, How to Draw Rather than Type About It 301, and You Say You're Creative So Figure It Out - Advanced Placement.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  16. #16
    Knock on who's door, pound feet pavement? Is this more pull yourself up by your bootstraps and take the initiative pep talk?

    C'mon man I'm just asking which courses would benefit me the most if I already have a BA and need the design background. It's not that hard.

    The courses the former junior planner in the previous post took seem helpful and especially if they helped him land a job. I will take those but I'm looking to get into urban design.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    If you want to do be an "urban designer", a term I find very misleading since I have also done suburban design and rural design, the BEST way is to put in the time and earn an MLA or a Masters in Architecture. I don't consider an MUD in the same category as the first two. Please take the time and search previous threads on Cyburbia on these topics. Not all MLA and MArch programs are the same. Some are more technical and some are more theoretical. YOU, on the other hand, want the fast, cheap, and easy way to do what is a VERY technical field. Can you make it as a designer without a design degree? Absolutely. But you need initiative, spunk, luck, and drive. Pound the pavement. Knock on doors. Work the room. This is America. Pick yourself up from your own bootstraps. If you are not going to do what we recommend, find your own path and prove us wrong.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  18. #18
    Fair enough. I agree.

    But just to recap, an MUD is not a definitive degree to actually do urban design with just an MUP?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Please search my previous posts on MUDs.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  20. #20
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid;690160
    Please search my previous posts on MUDs.
    Again, ColoGi's standard answer: the search function will reveal a dozen or more returns.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Maybe the problem is your question. Consider a civil engineering firm. They may offer many services related to design including environmental services, traffic analysis, planning, etc. The people working these jobs may have very little design background but work for a design firm. Are you instead asking whether you need any special credentials to work as an urban designer (with the emphasis on design, rather than more straightforward planning? For this the first requirement is that you demonstrate a strong design talent. Do you have the artistic talent? An MLA or MArch will be the primary credential. Next, there is the question of whether you know the correct design software. But the first thing they will look at is your portfolio.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  22. #22
    By design firm I meant an urban design firm. I want to go into urban design.

    So far from researching the forum it seems that an MUD program requres previous academic work in design to enter? An MUP with a specialization in UD doesn't count?

    Also, and this post was from 2009, but apparently urban design is dead? The jobs for both UD and LA are dead in the water right now?

    I was hoping to bypass more debt and another year of study to acquire the MUD with design courses from the local CC. Or a years worth of LA courses at the local Extension.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    If you dig a little deeper in previous posts, I noted that MUD programs are not consistent across the board. Planning, and for this argument I am including MUD programs, do not prepare students to land jobs and pass licensing exams. On the other hand, landscape architecture, architecture, and engineering programs, whether it is bachelors or masters, are strictly regulated by accreditation boards. Some of these other types of programs are more theoretical, some are more hands on. Some place more of an emphasis on technology others place and emphasis on materials. However, you can feasibly enroll in any ACCREDITED landscape architecture, architecture, or engineering degree, and with some variation, have a standard set of tools when you graduate. These tools ultimately help you take a licensing exam.

    Planning, with the notable exception of New Jersey and legal definitions of types of planners in select states, is NOT a licensed profession. The Association for Collegiate Schools in Planning (ACSP) and the Planning Accredit ion Board (PAB) have a more lax enforcement of planning programs. For example, I earned my BUP from UIUC and have formal coursework in every type of planning specialization: economic development, transportation planning, statistics, historic preservation, etc. At my current job, the two other planners have PAB accredited planning degrees from schools in Texas and Mississippi respectively, but do not have formal training in several specializations. An urban designer is not a licensed profession. You are correct that most MUD programs require previous design experience. Most, but not all MUDs, are secondary degree programs in architecture colleges within universities. They provide advanced specialization in design work that are usually not covered in architecture.

    Due to the lack of standardization through a formal licensing program, I have been very skeptical about the quality of content in MUD programs. As a designer/manager, I don't know if the future employee knows how to design a town center or just Photoshop a bubble plan someone else designed. I don't know if they spent a full year cranking out actual construction plans or spent 3 semesters perfecting a construction detail (which is usually just a CAD block slapped in a drawing). I don't know if they know parking lot design, grading, massing. I don't know if they can sketch out a perspective in pencil or do they need to do it in CAD. I don't know if they can visualize in their head how a 20' waterline easement on one side of a site impacts the lot design 1,000' away. If you don't have a design background, I usually recommend a full fledged MLA or MArch, not an MUD. I taught myself site design as a kid, and spent untold hours in college in the architectural library stacks finding every possible book on site design and taught myself. I refined my skills over several years to the point where I do a design job that is usually performed by landscape architects.

    Second, the economy has changed since 2009, for better or worse. I work in Houston and we are booming down here. I am exactly where I need to be, designing 500-1000 acre tracts of subdivisions, master planned communities, and town centers. The Houston Metro Area is VERY developer friendly, almost to a fault. There are companies down here that are hiring. We may not be a Chicago, Portland, or Seattle. However, as a site planner, I don't have to write a comprehensive plan talking about the importance of trails. I design the trail convince the developer (my client) about the importance of trails and how little it will impact the lot count, and the trail has a far better of chance of getting built. I have worked in other states and the most we accomplish is raising awareness among ourselves about the importance of trails. I would prepare a flashy plan and the document sits on a shelf and collects dust.

    Finally, most importantly, formal training cannot make up for lack of creativity. If you are going to be able to draw, you are going to be able to draw. I don't care if it is an architectural drafting course at a community college or Harvard GSD, most of the standards (ROW width, lot width, reverse curves, pavement, irrigation) are not really taught directly. You usually have to badger your professor/TA to get the nuts and bolts of actual physical site design. Most of the time you learn the actual specific skills on the job. The portfolio is YOUR work. You are showing YOUR skills to the employer. I have been at my current job for about 14 months, and I learned very early on how very few designers, including experienced ones, can do large scale design with tracts larger than 50 acres. There will come a time when you have to figure out the site plan for yourself, sink or swim. So get cracking, pull out the pencils, and get going on design. Stop talking about it and just do it.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  24. #24
    Business is booming in Houston? That is where I am orignally from but have been spending my days in Los Angeles which I found was a big mistake. I should've stayed in Houston.

    How long do you see the boom going down there? I hope to finish my schooling in no less than three years going part time. Hopefully there will still be work by the time I am done.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Approximately 27,000 new single family lots will be underway this year in the Houston metro area, which is huge. I am personally am involved with the physical site design of 700-800 of those for 2013, and probably another 1500-2000 for next year. There are no hard statistics yet, but I am guessing things will probably start slowing down in early to mid 2015. Keep in mind, you wanted to do TODs, sustainability, etc. and all of this work is low density, single family detached subdivisions. It is not cutting edge planning work in that regard. For the fourth largest metro area in the country, there are very few outlets for regional planning, transportation planning, long range planning, current planning, economic development, environmental planning, etc. compared to other large cities.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 13 Aug 2013 at 1:47 PM.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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