Engineering in Design

During my study of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, I always was jealous of the Architecture students. It seemed like they always had creative projects that involved cool models, layouts and graphics that were interesting. My education seemed to be mostly numbers, equations and Excel spreadsheets. The only graphics I made were line charts. I remember thinking that there must be a discipline like architecture, but for "stuff" rather than just buildings. There was. It was called Industrial Design. But, they didn't offer that at the U of M, or any other place in Minnesota as far as I know.

After getting into industry a bit more, I found myself getting into Product Design. First at a medical startup and later for full-fledged product design consultancies. I was constantly wondering if I should go to grad school for Industrial Design so that I could get more into what I considered the "fun" stuff. Now, what is it?, twelve years later, I'm pretty happy with my decision on Mechanical Engineering. I find that I still get to do lots of aesthetically creative work (i.e. brainstorming sketches, surface modeling, product aesthetics) but I also get more into the mechanically creative than perhaps a typical Industrial Designer does. By mechanically creative, I mean gear trains, mechanisms that move a lid or door a certain way, electronics/programming/motion control, as well as prototyping skills like CAM, welding and machining.

I think the only skill that I wanted to pluck from an Industrial Design background was the ability to sketch quickly and clearly so that I could get ideas across to colleagues and clients without looking like a 3rd grader with a crayon. We used this book in engineering school and I thought it was decent:

Although, I just don't practice enough and my sketches still look like a 3rd grader with a crayon. I'm much faster and clearer with ideas by starting in SolidWorks. But, you can't do that if you're tossing around ideas at a bar. If anyone has a good book or method, let me know!