Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop the concepts for manufactured products.
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Industrial designers typically do the following:
- Consult with clients to determine requirements for designs
- Research the various ways a particular product might be used, and who will use it
- Sketch ideas or create renderings, which are images on paper or on a computer that provides a visual of design ideas
- Use computer software to develop virtual models of different designs
- Create physical prototypes of their designs
- Examine materials and manufacturing requirements to determine production costs
- Work with other specialists, such as mechanical engineers and manufacturers, to evaluate whether their design concepts will fill needs at a reasonable cost
- Evaluate product safety, appearance, and function to determine if a design is practical
- Present designs and demonstrate prototypes to clients for approval
Some industrial designers focus on a particular product category. For example, they may design medical equipment or work on consumer electronics products, such as computers and smartphones. Other designers develop ideas for products such as new bicycles, furniture, housewares, and snowboards.
Other designers, sometimes called user interface designers or interaction designers, focus on the usability of a product, such as an electronic device, and ensure that the product is both simple and enjoyable to use.
Industrial designers imagine how consumers might use a product and test different designs with consumers to see how each design looks and works. Industrial designers often work with engineers, production experts, and market research analysts to find out if their designs are feasible. They apply the input from their colleagues’ professional expertise to further develop their designs. For example, industrial designers may work with market research analysts to develop plans to market new product designs to consumers.
Computers are a major tool for industrial designers. Industrial designers use two-dimensional computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to sketch ideas because computers make it easy to make changes and show alternatives. Three-dimensional CAD software is increasingly being used by industrial designers as a tool to transform their two-dimensional designs into models with the help of three-dimensional printers. If they work for manufacturers, they also may use computer-aided industrial design (CAID) software to create specific machine-readable instructions that tell other machines exactly how to build the product.
Analytical skills. Industrial designers use logic or reasoning skills to study consumers and recognize the need for new products.
Artistic ability. Industrial designers sketch their initial design ideas, which are used later to create prototypes. As such, designers must be able to express their designs through illustration.
Computer skills. Industrial designers use computer-aided design software to develop their designs and create prototypes.
Creativity. Industrial designers must be innovative in their designs and the ways in which they integrate existing technologies into their new products.
Interpersonal skills. Industrial designers must develop cooperative working relationships with clients and colleagues who specialize in related disciplines.
Mechanical skills. Industrial designers must understand how products are engineered, at least for the types of products that they design.
Problem-solving skills. Industrial designers determine the need, size, and cost of a product; anticipate production issues; develop alternatives; evaluate options, and implement solutions.
- Wholesale trade
- Specialized design services
- Architectural, engineering, and related services
- Self-employed workers
A bachelor’s degree is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs. Common fields of degree include fine arts, engineering, and architecture. Most industrial design programs include courses in drawing, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), and three-dimensional modeling, as well as courses in business, industrial materials, and processes, and manufacturing methods.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Many schools require successful completion of some basic art and design courses before granting entry into a bachelor’s degree program. Applicants also may need to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on contracts for work.