What Do Industrial Designers Do?

"Engineering is something I'm really interested in, and the idea of designing new products from scratch is something that appeals to me. I was curious if this is what an industrial designer does, and if so, what industries I could feasibly work in. Would I be able to work on cars? Machines for factories? What do industrial designers do?"

asked by Brad from Helena, MT

The first thing you need to know about industrial design is that it is a huge category. There are countless different industries which employ industrial designers. Automotive manufacturers (such as you asked about) are just a few of the companies that need designers. Same thing with factory equipment manufacturers. Industrial designers literally design everything that you use throughout your day, from your computer to your desk chair to your light fixture to your car. At some point, an industrial designer sat down to come up with a concept.

What doesn’t fall under the umbrella of industrial design? Fashion design, for starters. Spatial design doesn’t either. Interior designers and architects are responsible for designing buildings, and urban planners determine the designs for roads and large developments. Graphic designers also fall under a different category. So do people who design services.

When you are in industrial design, you follow a number of primary steps through to completion. First you define the problem which your new product will help to solve. Then you brainstorm different design ideas which could solve the problem.

Once you get some good ideas, you create concept sketches and diagrams. After that, you move onto building prototypes, and then you work with the team to test the prototypes out. As you come up with ideas which work, you can start refining the design until you manufacture the best possible product.

How do you know if industrial design is right for you? If you enjoy learning about the way things work, and if you have a mind for problem-solving, you may very well excel at industrial design. Do you walk around the house thinking of ways your own products could be improved? Do you have a visual mind which expresses itself well on paper? Do you like building things and converting theories into practical applications which help people enjoy a better life?

If you have these qualities, industrial design in any field may be of interest to you. As you embark on your education, you can start to hone down your specific interests. You may find you have a passion for automotive engineering, or that you would like to focus on ergonomic design for furniture. Or you might find out that you enjoy electronics. So make sure you have a real passion for this field and that you will be ready to compete with others for the positions which are out there!

Career Spotlight: Industrial Designer

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