15 Apr Why it all started: The birth of industrial design
Industrial design, as we know it today, has revolutionised the product design industry. Where product design is a straightforward process to achieve a specific solution, industrial design encompasses an in-depth process that takes conceptual design and product design into consideration to create exceptional results.
The reason for this is that industrial design’s biggest strength is its strategic approach. Solidly geared towards problem-solving and innovation, industrial designers continuously seek out solutions that can make products more efficient, more cost-effective and, simply put, better.
Several careers are also linked to industrial design. These include architects, fashion designers, graphic designers and interior designers.
So, where did it all start? In this blog, we will take a closer look at the history of industrial design, when industrial design started, and how producers today benefit from industrial design best practices to create products of excellence that marry functions and form in a way that makes sense to the end user.
When did industrial design start?
It can be easy to assume the industrial design is just product design with a different name. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Industrial design is strongly focused on functional value and often incorporated in products of scale, such as automobiles and furniture. And at its core stands innovation – the very catalyst for the birth of industrial design.
Looking at the history of industrial design, it is widely reported that industrial design started in the 19th century, with the book Practical Draughtsman’s Book of Industrial Design by Jacques-Eugène Armengaud already published in 1853.
Spurred on by the industrial revolution, with the accompanying need for mass production of products, the birth of industrial design saw a notable shift towards purpose-driven machinery used in the production of certain products. During the course of the history of industrial design, concepts such as efficiency, standardisation and functionality where quickly introduces, underpinned by a new way of thinking that offered a better approach to mass production. No more confined to dated approaches to design and production, product designers could now stretch their capabilities even further with this new innovative way of thinking and shaping the design process.
Early 1900s and beyond: The history of industrial design and its impact on design processes today
The early 1900s already witnessed several key developments in the history of industrial design. This includes the birth of Deutscher Werkbund in 1907, an organisation that brought together artists and designers and played a key role in the development of industrial design. Several years later, widely respected New Zealand industrial designer Joseph Claude Sinel would be the first to use the phrase “industrial design” in 1919. And the next year would mark a spark in the industry.
A boom in industrial design’s history
The 1920s and 1930s were key time frames in the birth of industrial design – and where the first decade of the two showcased industrial designers growing their industry, the second would be responsible for the shift towards even more efficiency.
Around the 1920s, industrial designers truly came into their own as they kick-started mass producing products such as cars and trains. The famous American industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague founded TEAGUE in 1926, a company that became known for Polaroid cameras, Pringles tubes and the interiors of Boeing commercial airlines.
In the following decade, which also marked the start of the Great Depression, another milestone in the development of industrial design was reached: looking towards production processes that were cost-effective and time efficient. It was during this period that Sundberg-Ferar, another industrial design consultancy founded by Carl Sundberg and Montgomery Ferar, was brought to life in 1934.
The expertise of Sundberg-Ferar as well as TEAGUE is still evident today as both companies are still operating today, producing many well-known products that consumers love.
The rise of famous industrial designers that would impact the industry for decades to come
In the decades since its birth, industrial design has seen a fair share of prominent designers rise to fame through their aptitude for designing products guided by this new approach of functionality, efficiency and great design.
These design teams include husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames, who were known for creating sleek, exceptional furniture pieces designed for the modern world; Dieter Rams, father of the principles of good design and head of Braun; and Giorgetto Giugiaro, an influential car designer as well as creator of other design concepts such as chairs and cameras, to name only a few. Many of these producers cemented design concepts that today still benefit designers and businesses that are eager to maintain efficiency and expertise at their core.
The impact of industrial design in our current world – and beyond
The rise of smart devices (such as mobile phones), smart homes with automated processes and furniture pieces, and innovative ways of designing eco-friendly products which do not impact the environment negatively are all examples of how industrial designers have shaken up the design industry to create leading products that enhance the user experience.
However, recent developments have also come into play that could spur industrial designers to stretch even further in their design processes. Looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world since the start of the current decade and the way it constrained economies due to job losses, industrial design, now more than ever, can shape the product landscape to retain viability.
Just like the onset of the Great Depression, this new era that producers find themselves in once more calls for a more efficient way of production that is cost-effective and that will make sense to consumers to invest time and money in. With said consumers likely less financially capable than a couple of years ago, industrial designers now how even more opportunity to design better and smarter.
And if the history of industrial design has shown anything, it is that industrial designers will continue to innovate, grow their expertise and shape their design and manufacturing processes to make sense for modern consumers. Industrial design remains at the forefront of creating exceptional products, and history has proven that this will likely not change in years to come.
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