How Industrial Designers are Changing the Way We Do Everyday Tasks


An industrial designer (ID) works in a little known and often misunderstood profession. They are responsible for creating systems and products that optimize appearance, value, and function for the mutual benefit of the manufacturer and the user.

An ID works to develop systems and products by using a collection analysis and synthesis of data process. This process is guided by the special requirements of the manufacturer and client. In addition to creating, industrial designers also improve existing systems and products to ensure they work according to modern demand.

As a consumer, you may wonder how the work of an industrial designer directly affects you. After all, there are few brands or manufacturers that offer an explanation of the correlation.

The Role of Industrial Designers

An industrial designer is someone who develops the concept for various manufactured products. This includes toys, sporting goods, electronic appliances, home goods, cars, and more. They work in a wide array of industries and combine engineering, business, and art skills to improve systems and create products that you use each day.

In recent years, industrial designers have worked to develop designer user experiences, as well as systems in a process called “design thinking.” An example of this is a team of industrial designers working to improve the way emergency room staff and patients interact.

Today, industrial designers play a huge role in innovation in the economy. They help to bring a creative outlook to handle complex challenges or problems. Not only do they introduce new, updated versions of existing items and products, they also release innovations that improve the way you work, play, and live. Without the work of industrial designers, the world would be a much different place.

The Misconceptions of Industrial Designers Job Scope

When many people hear the term “industrial designer” they automatically think of an individual who designs factory machines. Due to this all-too-common misconception, many in this field have changed their title to be more telling, such as calling themselves “product designers.” However, the confusion grows if the design work doesn’t fall directly in the commercial realm – the not-for-profit area, the artsy area, or the experimental area.

These confusions are understandable. This is a professional that has never had a TV series attached to it and the discipline is still somewhat young, extremely broad, and continually expanding.

However, each of the four areas of service industrial designers work in, impact your life in one way or another. Learning more about each area – commercial design, responsible design, discursive design, and experimental design, is a great way to get started.

Commercial Design

This is what is thought of as product/industrial design. It comprises the majority of these professionals activity. This type of design is work oriented and driven by the market. Success in this area is determined by the return on investment.

The goal of the industrial designer is to create desirable, usable, and useful products that customers can afford and that help to generate profit.

Take, for example, the iPhone. Without industrial designers, the look, function, and even profits for the company would not have been near where they were. Within a week of being introduced to the public, the stock value of Apple increased by 65 percent.

In the commercial realm, industrial designers have the goal to help companies make money. With these services, you can continue working for companies that are profitable. Without these designers, it is impossible to create products that keep a business operational.

Responsible Design

This is also referred to as socially responsible design. In this realm, the designer works to provide desirable, usable, and useful products to a group that is mainly ignored by the market. With responsible design, issues such as philanthropy, altruism, compassion, and ethics surround the work that is done. The primary intent of these designers is not to maximize profit, but to serve those who are underserved.

An example of responsible design is from the Ableware brand. This company introduced a one-handed cutlery set. Due to the use of a spring mechanism, users can cut and skewer food in one motion and with one hand. This is a product designed for those with limited dexterity or amputees. It allows them to feed themselves and to live a more independent life. The point of this product was not profits, but to make life easier for a specific group of people.

Experimental Design

In the industrial design realm, experimental design is a narrow swath inside a larger and broader design field. The purpose of this is discovery, experimentation, and exploration. In this type of design, it is more about the process, than the actual outcome. The experiments are carried out to determine what a viable solution would be. Once the results of the experiment are seen, the product is further refined and then directed to the proper market. However, the main intent of the experimental design is to allow exploration into the possibilities, without much regard to serving the market.

The driving factor of experimental design is exploration. Finding out what happens when doing something to see if it may be a viable option for making or presenting a product to the public. Without this area of industrial design, you may never see new, innovative items enter the market.

Discursive Design

This type of design refers to creating a utilitarian object. The primary role of these items is to communicate ideas. The goal of this is to effectively raise awareness and spur new ideas. The work done by this field is usually not extremely visible in the market, but instead, seen in film, print, and exhibition. This is where industrial designers enter the realm of the artist. However, rather than being art, the items could or do function in the everyday world.

An example of discursive design is seen with the Indigestive Plates by Rafael Morgan. These are traditional, ceramic dinner plates that serve to relay a message about hunger and poverty that is printed in thermochromatic ink. When the plate is at room temperature, it seems normal; however, when a dinner guest starts to finish their hot meal, they see a message about hunger across the world. What would happen if these plates were used for a political dinner or at a fancy, expensive restaurant? This type of industrial design is to ensure important issues are known and understood.

What’s the Connection?

If it isn’t clear by now, the role of the industrial designer is vast. Every product you use was once a concept or idea. Without these individuals, no new technology, products, or innovations would be seen. The designers impact the items you purchase, the causes you care about, your ability to function with disabilities, and more. This is a field that is continuing to grow. It is only now beginning to get the recognition deserved, which is still lax compared to other industries.

Without industrial designers and more people entering into the field, life as you know it would cease. While this statement may seem dramatic – it is true. These individuals touch virtually every product you use on a daily basis. From your hair dryer to your fork, your charitable donations and more; industrial designers help to shape society, making it a better and friendlier place for everyone.

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How Industrial Designers are Changing the Way We Do Everyday Tasks

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