Your Complete Guide to Industrial Design in 2018

Robot Design Examples

When you hear the words “industrial design”, what comes to mind? Do you think of towering skyscrapers, old fashioned steam engines, or a Ford assembly line? Before writing this article, that’s exactly what I thought. I was only a bit off.

Industrial design is in reality a creative mind’s haven, combining the best parts of product design and prototype design, with a commitment to bettering the consumer’s life. To me, that sounds just a bit better than what I originally pictured, which was essentially a scene from the industrial revolution.

Get ready to dive into the world of ingenuity and innovation as we take a closer look at what industrial design is really all about:

Industrial design example
AutoCAD parts design by Koko

What is industrial design?

At its heart, Industrial Design provides a more optimistic way of looking at the future by reframing problems as opportunities. —World Design Organization, 2015

Some may think that industrial design is simply a glorified version of product design, but there is much more than meets the eye to this creative process. Industrial design is a comprehensive design style that focuses on all aspects of design and how the end result will better the consumer’s life in some way. Pretty cool, right?

Many industrial designers approach their work in a holistic, human-centered way; they specialize their focus on optimizing function, value, and appearance. If that sounds like a lot to take in, don’t worry. Here’s everything you’ll ever need to know about industrial design and hiring an industrial designer yourself:

Robot Design Examples
Robotics design by Mark Haled

Holistic Approach

A career in design is more than a job. It is a way of seeing; a way of interacting with the world. It is a way of life. —UIC School of Design

When industrial designers receive a task, they make sure that they fully understand the problem that they are trying to solve before starting. Looking at the project as a whole lets industrial designers conceive a plan from start to finish on how they’ll deliver for their clients.

If we look at only function, value, or style, we’re missing the larger picture of what this product needs to accomplish and how it will do it (and more). Industrial designers are trained to keep all 3 ideas in mind when bringing your idea to life.

New tire design and 3D modeling
Tyre prototype design by Ricky3DVFX


The urge for good design is the same as the urge to go on living. The assumption is that somewhere, hidden, is a better way of doing things. —Harry Bertoia

What materials will be needed to make this product best work? What will this product need to do? How will this product do all that and a bag of chips?

If these questions seem a bit overwhelming, it’s time to turn to the professionals. These are some examples of questions your industrial designer will need to ask themselves when dreaming up how to best make your product work. The reason you’re creating a new product in the first place is to satisfy a need in the marketplace that hasn’t been solved; industrial designers have the creative know-how to find the answers.

Industrial designers need serious problem solving skills to take an abstract concept such as “a better working wheel” and find out how to do it. Though they (hopefully) won’t reinvent the wheel, they can use different materials, draft different spoke designs, and keep its purpose in mind when discovering how this specific wheel will best function.

Vitascope design medical device by KP HARISANKAR
Vitascope design medical device by KP HARISANKAR


Design has an important task: to resolve problems, to offer better solutions, to save, and add value to our lives. Development of a new product should always “make sense” in these terms. — Kristiina Lassus

If you have a product that’s practically perfect in every way, but the price tag is astronomical, no one will purchase your product. When your price point is out of reach, that means your product is no longer practically perfect because no one will benefit from it. Price is what makes you or breaks you.

Value is a vital skill industrial designers need to master when creating goods. It’s one thing for a product to look good and to be useful, but it’s another thing to make your clients feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck when they purchase your product. Value is finding the best materials at the lowest cost; this is something your industrial designer will be a pro at.

Product design by Milan Borovic on Cad Crowd
Product design by Milan Borovic on Cad Crowd


Design has become the public art of our time. Steven Holt

To appeal to consumers, price and function are only a part of the puzzle. In today’s saturated economy, you’re not going to catch the eye of potential customers unless you stand out in a good looking way.

People like pretty, so it’s a good thing that designers are trained to make the ordinary eye-catching. If you have two products that are exactly the same, yet one looks much more refined than the other, I’m sure you can guess which one the consumer will choose.

Industrial designers will make choosing your product simple for your potential customers. They’ll give you a design that does what it should do, is at the price point it should be, and will make even the pickiest of buyers swoon.

Luxury Eye-wear case by Ankit Bharangar on Cad Crowd
Luxury Eyewear case by Ankit Bharangar on Cad Crowd

Human Centered

The pursuit of design is not about the way things appear but rather about the way things have meaning and how these things add or detract from the human experience. —Rob Forbes

Arguably the most important distinction between industrial design and product design is the human centered focus that industrial designers have dedicated their craft to.

Product designers are great at producing awesome looking models for consumers. Industrial designers strive to make certain that their products not only function in the way they should, but that they improve your life in some sort of way.

Certain industrial designers even specialize in user experience design and design with larger social impacts in mind. Creating products is only one part of the job. These subsets of industrial design are dedicated to making sure that the product is giving back in a big way.

Premium headset redesign by Jacob Jose on Cad Crowd
Premium headset redesign by Jacob Jose on Cad Crowd

Your one-stop shop from start to completion

Design is not so much about the end product as it is about the process. —Clement Mok

If you’re looking for someone to handle everything from design conception to sketching to prototype design, an industrial designer is the person you need on your side.

Because industrial design is so cross-disciplinary, you’re likely to find a designer that will be able to guide you through every step of the design process.

Pulse detector by handsketcher on Cad Crowd
Pulse detector by handsketcher on Cad Crowd

How industrial design is different

Industrial designers are explorers of the values and richness of human knowledge and agents of change and integration, with a passion for cultural, economic, ecological, social, and symbolic value. —Industrial Design Program, Emily Carr University

Here’s the deal:

Product design does exactly what it says it will. You’ll receive an appearance focused design for a product that may or may not be optimized for function or value. The product design will likely be a great starting place for you to further refine your product to better fit your audience’s needs and budget.

Product design is helpful for brainstorming and coming up with how you want your product to look, but industrial design will get your product ready to manufacture. Good industrial design will not only benefit the purchaser, but it will benefit the person making the product as well by saving producers money. Any excess is cut out of the production process, and the result is a great product that was executed well.

Industrial designers may be more expensive to hire, but the quality and scope of work you’re getting in return is well worth the extra cash up front.

Industrial Design & development by subhendu14071975 on Cad Crowd
Industrial Design & development by subhendu14071975 on Cad Crowd

Why you need an industrial designer?

Design is rooted in everyday life, every tap you turn, every door knob you touch. —Karim Rashid

Marketing teams come up with the questions that companies need answered. Designers are the ones to figure out the solutions to those problems. If you have a super specific problem that needs to be resolved through a product, a product designer can do that job.

If you’re looking for someone that can take a vague concept and transform it into something tangible, you know who to call. Industrial designers make the magic happen and beautify the world along the way.

I bet it’s easy to see now why industrial designers are a vital resource to companies and startups across the world.

Industrial designers are guiding us into the future; Let’s get excited to see where these thought leaders will take us next.