What does an industrial designer do?

What does an industrial designer do?

When you hear the phrase “industrial designer”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you immediately associate these words with product design, or do you tend to mentally add this vocation to the same bucket as graphic design or visual design?

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The fact is, there are many layers to what an industrial designer does – and it stretches beyond just the basics of design! In other words: it is a myth that an industrial designer is just a “regular” designer! In this blog, we will unpack what exactly an industrial designer does, and how this niche vocation plays an incredible, value-filled role in the production of products in the modern world.

Let’s start by looking at what the phrase “industrial designer” implies and some examples of an industrial designer’s work ethos.

Defining the concept of an industrial designer

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An industrial designer plays a hands-on role in developing the concept for products, taking into consideration how certain materials will impact the final design, how the production process will be impacted by certain steps and how each step, from conception to manufacturing and launch will be optimally executed to be time-efficient, cost-effective and, ultimately, successful.

This in-depth approach that industrial designers have, have led to some of the world’s most iconic products. These include items such as the trendy Fitbit, the well-known Coca-Cola bottle, the Polaroid camera and the VW Beetle, to name a few.

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Where the industrial designer’s input truly comes in, is that products are designed to be both functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, without overcomplicating a design or the production process. Industrial designers know that good design is simple design, and ensure that their end-products would be enticing and that their final design would persuade customers to buy their products.

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Furthermore, an industrial designer is mindful that when a product is designed, the process should bear in mind how its function will address a customer’s pain points and solve a problem that they have. For instance, if a customer is looking for a more efficient electrical shaver, they will be swayed to invest in a product with a better grip and longer battery life than a bulky device that needs to be charged for longer and takes more time before it can be used.

Now, let’s take a closer look at what exactly an industrial designer does, and how they enhance the design process from start to finish.

A bespoke approach to product design and industrial design

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Often, an industrial designer would be niche orientated. This means specialising in areas such as products for the medical field, homeware such as furniture or smart devices, or cars, to name a few. Some might be adept in dealing with various industries. However, most industrial designers follow a similar modus operandi when interacting with clients. Here are some of the key areas that define what an industrial designer does:

1. Client consultation to determine needs and desired results

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When embarking on a design project, an industrial designer ensures that that all-important 360-view of a planned product is in place. Consulting with clients, they will determine the purpose of a planned product and how a client would like to achieve certain results.

This will be supported by researching how the planned product will be used and how it will make sense for an end-user to buy the product.

2. Rapid prototyping to determine any gaps in product design

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Industrial designers know the value of designing for excellence, and rapid prototyping, from 3D printing to CNC machining, allows them to test out designs and to tweak where necessary to ensure success. During this step, an industrial designer will use sophisticated design tools such as CAD 3D modelling and will be able to assess whether a product is practical and will fulfil the need that it is designed for. This will include safety considerations, as this is a key concern for a successful design.

3. Evaluating which materials will be used and considering production costs

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Different materials bring benefits for products, such as thermoplastics versus thermosets, depending on the product, or wood versus metal. An industrial designer will carefully assess the materials used for a product’s design, selecting the best possible items at the most cost-effective price, without compromising on quality or results.

4. Drive an agile process from concept to final production

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Industrial designers understand and respect the agile nature of their vocation, and ensuring that their processes remain flexible to ensure that room for error is minimised. They value the importance of involving clients throughout the design process and presenting to them often to ensure that client satisfaction will be achieved.

5. Consult with industry specialists to ensure product excellence

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Part of the value that industrial designers bring to client service is consulting with industry specialists to determine the viability of a product and how it can be refined and improved as needed. An industrial designer can also assist in advising clients on outsourcing and manufacturing options for their products. Tapping into their network, which often comprises international connections, they will be able to provide cost-effective solutions for clients.

Design with a difference

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It is clear, when asking the question, “what does an industrial designer do”, these individuals provide a bespoke process and solutions for clients to ensure that their products achieve success in the market and satisfy the needs of clients in a competitive market. It is one of the most rewarding vocations in the design industry and a perfect showcase for how product design should and needs to be done.

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