A program in the applied visual arts that prepares individuals to use artistic techniques to effectively communicate ideas and information to business and consumer audiences via the creation of effective forms, shapes, and packaging for manufactured products. Includes instruction in designing in a wide variety of plastic and digital media, prototype construction, design development and refinement, principles of cost saving, and product structure and performance criteria relevant to aesthetic design parameters.

Industrial and product designers conceptualize products and appliances. 

Every product and machine starts as an idea. Industrial designers dream up new toys, appliances, equipment, widgets, vehicles, and more, using their artistic skills and technical knowledge to improve upon the structure, function, or appearance of everyday objects. When the field first emerged, industrial designers worked primarily by hand, drawing and occasionally building representations of their imaginings. These days, most designers use CAD software that allows them to add, remove, and adjust various elements, and create different versions of their designs. They may also use 3D rendering software to demonstrate how every angle of a product will look on its own or in certain environments, which can help clients to envision a product's future.

Most manufacturers get the plans for the goods they make from product designers, who can input instructions for how to make certain components of a product directly to a facility's machines. 3D printing is also a favorite of contemporary industrial designers; many will make printable renderings of their products or its various components, which can cut down on manufacturing expenses and make prototyping easier.

Industrial and product design work may include...

  • Making sketches, renderings, and prototypes
  • Collaborating with engineers, manufacturers, and clients
  • Researching product functions and demands
  • Doing product pitches, presentations, and demonstrations for clients and investors
  • Choosing appropriate production materials

Industrial designers tend to work at design firms, where they engage in collaborative brainstorming and client meetings. As products move down the pipeline from imaginary to tangible, designers may visit manufacturing facilities to find the right fit for a specific product or travel to design shows to share their work with potential clients. Some product designers are entrepreneurs who conceptualize, design, and develop their ideas independently, often seeking funding from investors or interested prospective buyers. Others work in manufacturing environments, where they ensure that the product created is a perfect match to its plan. More experienced industrial designers may hold supervisory roles in a firm or work directly for a consumer goods company, creating new lines or iterations of their classic products. Industrial design contracts are notoriously competitive, and landing the right one can be a career maker.

The first step to a career in industrial design is a Bachelor's degree in a technical field such as engineering or architecture. Many institutions offer programs in industrial design specifically, which train students to understand many elements of practical design and allow them to build product portfolios. Assignments and projects can give industrial design graduates a head start in the professional sphere, giving prospective employers examples of their work and abilities. Most of these degree programs put an emphasis on art training, use of specialized computer design and drafting programs, materials and manufacturing, as well as business and mechanical coursework. These are specialized skills that can be difficult to learn independently, which is the main reason employers value degree holders.

If you're constantly looking for ways to improve objects in your daily life and beyond, consider pursuing a career in industrial or product design.

The Industrial Designers Society of America is a design association that looks to strengthen the industrial design profession as a whole and contribute to the boundless impact of design on business, culture, and society.

The World Design Organization is an international organization promoting and sharing knowledge of industrial design-driven innovation that enhances the quality of life.

The International Council of Design is an international organization representing the professions of design and promoting design as a medium for progressive change.