What is Industrial Design?

Industrial design is a multi-disciplinary field of design. “What is Industrial Design?” is a somewhat broad question because industrial design may include a number of different sub-divisions of design. These sub-categories of industrial design may include furniture design, packaging design, car design, product design, lighting design, and a whole number of other types of jobs in applied three-dimensional arts.

Industrial design specifically differentiates itself from these other specific types of design by focussing on the industrialized process. For the most part, everything that an industrial designer creates is intended to be mass produced. Inherent in the design of the object is the design of the process in which the object is made. The question What is Industrial Design ? can have many answers because industrial design overall is focussed on the process by which things are produced, more so then producing a specific item.

Many products that we live with everyday go through an incredibly complicated series of procedures in order to be brought from conception to a store shelf. This is one rather interesting video of young designer who attempted to make a toaster from scratch. The project nicely illustrates just how complex a quotidian object can be.

Industrial Design Definition
Industrial design is a field that blends together art and engineering with the general goal of creating an object for production. Industrial Design differs from the field of Product Design in that industrial design focusses around objects of industry. Industrial design is a multi-disciplinary field that involves many other aspects of design including graphic design, packaging, furniture, and many more.

Industrial design basically combines applied art and applied science with solid business acumen to create and design a product that is functional, useable and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

History of Industrial Design
To fully understand what is industrial design, it is important to know the origins of the industry. Industrial design really got its start at the beginning of the twentieth century. Along with growth in technology and the industrialization of the Western world’s manufacturing capabilities, came a need for someone to engineer this process. The phrase “industrial design” was first conceived of by the New Zealand based Joseph Claude Sinel in 1919. In the early days of industrial design, the role of the industrial designer was to merge mass-market production techniques with the skills of traditional craftsmanship.

What is Industrial Design Used For?
The industrial design process is essentially applied to every product that is manufactured and used by consumers. It takes the idea for a new product from the concept stage, through design and refinement to actual production of the final product. The overall aim of industrial design is to basically ensure that a product functions well and does the job required, has an attractive appearance, and is appealing to customers so that it sells. Industrial designers work in a huge number of product categories, with most specializing in a particular field of work. This can range from household appliances to technology devices, furniture, toys, automobiles, tools and a host of other categories.

Stages of Industrial Design
The industrial design process runs through a number of stages to bring a product from the initial idea to full market production.

Design Brief Stage: Designers will generally begin their work by meeting with a client or company manager that has an idea for a new product. They will basically look to find out the basic requirements of the client’s design brief and gain an understanding of what the product is for.

Market Research Stage: Once they have gained an understanding of the brief, the industrial design process will enter the market research stage. During this the designers will conduct surveys, meet with target customers and take in trade shows covering similar products. The aim of the market design stage is to establish that there is a viable market for the product being developed. Market research also involves the initial stages in the design of the product, where the designer will try to establish the basic characteristics of the product. This can include details such as the basic size and shape of the product, materials to use, estimated cost of production and the safety of the product.

Concept Design Stage: At this stage of the industrial design process, designers will try to produce a basic design for the product. This can be done by hand in the initial stages, although most designs these days will be completed using Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools. These make it easier to amend designs as they develop and the final information can be used by automated industrial machines during manufacturing.

Design Refinements Stage: Once the concept design has been completed, input from the client, engineers, accountants and others will generally result in the design being refined for a variety of reasons. This can include improved appearance, better functionality or more cost effective production. Industrial designers typically liaise with a number of other professions in the course of their work to ensure that any product brought to market has been tested and refined to make it the best it can possibly be. Prototypes may also be produced at this stage to let consumers use the product and feedback from this can result in design refinements.

Production Stage: Once the final design has been approved, the industrial design process enters the production stage. Designers will generally have an input in the initial stages of this to ensure that the product can be manufactured in an effective and costly manner. The product is then ready to be marketed to sell.

My Favorite Industrial Design Blog
Since industrial design is a very encompassing field, many designers choose to keep up the latest ideas, trends, and advancements in the industry via online blogs. Some of the most popular blogs include Core77, Product Design Hub, and Planet Industrial Design. There are quite a few blogs that focus on industrial design at large. There are also a number of blogs that focus on subsections of industrial design. Popular topics were the more niche specific blogs include furniture, cars, consumer electronics, lighting design, housewares, and much more.

In addition to the hundreds of available online publications, there are also numerous print publications that focus on industrial design or specific subsections of industrial design. A full list of industrial design magazine and popular industrial design blogs is included at further length on this website.

How to Pursue an Industrial Design Career
Those interested in pursuing a career in industrial design will need to look to college as a stepping stone to enter the profession. Most companies employing designers set a bachelor’s degree as the minimum qualification for an entry level position. Students can look to study a specialist industrial design course, although studying architecture or other engineering disciplines can also be a way to enter the profession. Once working in the industry, on-the-job training and experience are generally the ways to advance a career. Designers can look to move from a team design position to chief designer and then department head. Many that have the commitment can eventually move on to working as consultants or to opening their own industrial design firm.

Industrial Design Job Prospects
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that those entering the industrial design field can expect average employment growth in future years. However, with the number of companies involved in the profession there should be plenty of opportunities, especially for those that have good experience of engineering, strategic business concepts and the latest CAD technology. Competition for the best positions can be keen, however, and designers interested in these need to be prepared for this. Many Designers choose instead to start their own studios. The role of a designer and that of an entrepreneur can often be one in the same.

Considering Becoming an Industrial Designer?
Joining the industrial design profession can be a fun and rewarding line of work. Industrial designers have the opportunity to influence consumer trends and spending. Many people who are unfamiliar with the industrial design trade do not understand the amount of thought, planning, and hard work that it takes to make nearly every object in existence. For an industrial designer, the ability to take a product from an initial idea through the design stages and into full production can provide a rewarding and lucrative career. The role of an industrial designer is quite unique. Industrial designers are combination of an artist, an engineer, and a business person. For those that can master this combination, there is no better job then that of an industrial designer.

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