Design Career Profiles: Industrial Design

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Industrial and commercial designers use the disciplines of art, business, and engineering to design everyday products — from smart phones to medical equipment to household goods, and beyond. Each day, you rely on products designed by industrial designers. It is these designers who are responsible for a manufactured products’s style, function (or usability), quality, and safety.

The Work

Because commercial and industrial design encompasses so many industries and so many products, the potential for creativity is vast. Tweak an existing product, or design an entirely new one, and your efforts could affect millions and millions of people. Most industrial and commercial designers focus on one product category — such as toys or tools.

Nearly a third of industrial designers are self-employed, and the majority work closely with a variety of specialists — engineers, materials scientists, marketers, corporate strategists, and accountants. Before beginning work on a new design, industrial designers work with their clients to determine the purpose and requirements of a product and the tastes of the customer — from preferred size and shape, to ease of use, fit, cost, and safety.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in architecture, industrial design, or engineering is helpful for most entry-level industrial design positions. Further study, through a master’s degree program, is helpful too. Because of the increased emphasis on how design of products can fit into a business’s overall strategic plan, an increasing number of designers are pursuing a master’s in business administration.

Along with a degree or degrees, successful industrial designers have a strong eye for detail, color, and balance, and are able to not only use computer-aided design software, but also sketch by hand. This last is particularly helpful for “low-fi” prototypes, which are sometimes necessary in the first efforts at usability or feasibility testing.

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