04 May Industrial Design vs. Product Design: What’s the Difference
Laying the terms out on the table
If you are new in the manufacturing world, chances are you might have already heard of the terms “industrial design” and “product design,” as well as the frequent confusion between the two. So, what’s the difference between them?
It’s easy for those not intimately familiar with the nuances of production and development to confuse them. Their distinction is made more muddled by a.) Those in the manufacturing industry who insist those are the same; and b.) Those who insist that product design is part of industrial design, while others say it’s an industrial design that is part of product design.
Essentially, those are two different processes but are still part of the overall design and manufacturing of a product.
In the production of an item, the product design process comes first before the industrial design process. In coming up with the design of anything, a product designer looks at how a user can interact and come to appreciate that said product.
For example, a manufacturer wants to produce a hairdryer. The one in charge of the product design comes up with the design of that dryer taking into account what colors he or she knows the users will want, how it should fit comfortably in their hands, and how much it should weigh, etc.
So the product designer answers the “why we make it and for whom?” question of the manufacturing process.
If the product designer tackles the “why” of the process, the industrial designer tackles the “how do we make it?” question of the manufacturing process.
Building up on what was designed during the production design process, an industrial designer thinks about how to make that same design simple for a manufacturer to make and easy for the producing company to shoulder.
Let’s use the same product above as an example; the hairdryer. The one in charge of the industrial design looks at that hairdryer and takes into account how its parts can be mass-produced at the lowest possible cost, how these parts can be produced quickly, and who can be hired to produce those parts, among others.
Why it can be confusing
To improve a product’s design and marketability, many production teams hire experts in both product design and industrial design. To save time and eliminate any confusion in the design, experts in both fields sometimes jointly design the product, and the distinction between the processes is blurred.
It can also be that a product designer can also have enough experience to be an industrial designer, and an industrial designer may also be tapped to help in the product design process.
There are also times when an industrial designer finds something that can affect or alter the design of the product entirely, and in effect, the industrial designer becomes part of the new product design process.