Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop the concepts for manufactured products.
What they do
Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and usability of products when developing new product concepts.
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 provide 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 smart phones. 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.
Workspaces for industrial designers often include work tables for sketching designs, meeting rooms with whiteboards for brainstorming with colleagues, and computers and other office equipment for preparing designs and communicating with clients. Although industrial designers work primarily in offices, they may travel to testing facilities, design centers, clients’ exhibit sites, users’ homes or workplaces, and places where the product is manufactured.
How to become an Industrial Designer
A bachelor’s degree is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs. It is also important for industrial designers to have an electronic portfolio with examples of their design projects.
A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs. 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.
The median annual wage for industrial designers was $68,890 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,860, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $114,950.
Employment of industrial designers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
As fewer products are made in the United States, employment of industrial designers is expected to decline in some manufacturing industries. Although many modern products require detailed specifications as part of the design process, there is less demand for designers as these products become increasingly similar.
Similar Job Titles
Design Engineer, Designer, Industrial Designer, Mechanical Designer, Mold Designer, Product Design Engineer, Product Designer, Product Development Engineer, Product Engineer, Sign Designer
Industrial Engineer, Marine Architect, Architectural Drafter, Mechanical Drafter, Industrial Engineering Technician
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Industrial Designers Society of America - The IDSA community helps strengthen the industrial design profession as a whole and contributes to the boundless impact of design within business, culture and society.
- SAE International - SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. Our core competencies are life-long learning and voluntary consensus standards development.
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers - SME helps manufacturers innovate, grow and prosper by promoting manufacturing technology, developing a skilled workforce and connecting the manufacturing industry. Students, check out SME’s Student Success
Magazines and Publications
- IDSA Innovation
- SAE Magazine Publications
- SME Manufacturing Engineering Magazine and Smart Manufacturing Magazine
While originally focused on streamlining manufacturing processes, the field of industrial engineering now improves processes and systems in virtually all industries, to make them more efficient, yielding less waste, and costing less. To maximize efficiency, industrial engineers balance many factors such as the number and type of workers involved in a process, available equipment, safety, environmental impact, and cost. They might design faster production methods… choose new materials to make longer-lasting products… or devise ways to move customers through a line faster at an amusement park. Some engineers focus entirely on automated manufacturing and work with robots and computer networks. Industrial engineers often rely on teams to identify problems and solutions in their work. They generally work in offices… or travel to the settings they are analyzing to identify improvements. For example, they may watch workers assemble parts in a factory, then return to an office to analyze the data they have collected. Most industrial engineers work full time, but hours may vary depending on the needs of specific projects. Industrial engineers need a bachelor’s degree, in industrial engineering or a related engineering field. Employers value practical experience in the field, which many programs offer as part of a degree program.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org