Industrial Designer

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Industrial Designer


Look carefully at this computer. Look at the shape of the screen, the size of the keys, the curve of the mouse. None of this was accidental. A team of people designed it. Someone designed the mouse. Someone designed the screen. Everything in the world comes from either the bounty of nature or from the notebooks, computer screens, or imaginations of the world's industrial designers.
These highly trained specialists design everything from baby toys to bathtubs. They are hired by companies who want to sell a new product, or want to improve on an old one. Industrial designers make the items function well on the inside, while improving the esthetic quality on the outside.

This means they have to understand both the artistic side and the technical side to everything. When a company brings them a product idea and requests a design, the designers will have to do a lot of research and model-making before the finished product is even decided upon. In their preparation for a product, designers have to consider not only the way the product looks, but also how it works, if it's safe, if it's environmentally and economically feasible, and if people will want to buy it in the first place. The industrial designer might even look into materials and production costs of the proposed design.

Industrial designers are, therefore, multi-talented. But not every designer can go from designing functional tissue boxes to long-range hunting rifles. Therefore, many industrial designers specialize. There are a number of areas, almost as many as there are products available for our use. Some focus on home appliances, others scientific instruments, while others may be hired to design safety products, such a child-proof caps or drawer locks. Many of these designers work together within one firm. They will work alongside mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, draftspeople, and market researchers, as well as specialized designers. This means that the firm can solve any problem presented to them by a client, with all the resources under one roof.

Once the product is on the market, it is out of the designer's hands. The product could be a big hit, or a miserable failure. But if the designer researched the product, consulted with the market analysts, and made the product functional, economical, as well as stylish, their designs should do well in the real world.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming an industrial designer? They need to have good communication skills, meaning they are able to explain complex ideas in simple-to-understand ways. Industrial designers are creative thinkers, who love to follow through on ideas, no matter how many obstacles come up in the way. They need to have some business sense, and they must be practical, as well as imaginative. They enjoy all aspects of a project, including research, writing reports, and meetings. Industrial designers like a challenge and they enjoy learning new things. They should like drawing, enjoy computers, and have an interest in science and technology.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult with clients or manufacturers about products and markets
  • Research product history and use
  • Make sketches on paper and with computers
  • Construct models
  • Determine cost, materials, and manufacturing challenges
  • Make presentations to clients and other designers
  • Document processes in written reports
  • A typical day for a designer will be a long one, especially if the project is interesting, pressing, or fun to work on. A designer will divide each day between practical work and meetings with clients, market analysts, and researchers. The industrial designer will spend time in an office, working on sketches, developing computer and actual models, and preparing and giving presentations to clients. This job will allow for some travel, to client offices and factories, and potentially to other cities, depending on the needs of the client.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Industrial designers are generally employed by a design firm, working alongside other designers, management, engineers, and marketing and manufacturing specialists. They can also be on staff at manufacturing companies, such as a car company, or at a museum or cultural center, designing replicas of historical artifacts. They may be self-employed, and contract out to anyone looking for a designer.
  • They will work in both offices and workshops, which can be noisy and full of dust. They may need to work outside when testing some designs. They can work long hours and weekends if they or their design team is trying to meet a deadline.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Industrial designers can specialize in one area of design, or open a firm of their own that designs all sorts of products. They may use their training and become architects, market analysts, industrial design instructors, or interior designers. They may choose to take their talent to graphic design, or animation, or work for historical societies and museum recreating artifacts for display and public programs.

  Educational Paths  
Industrial designers need a background in art, science and technology. They need to be able to draw, make models, understand mechanics, have an eye for beauty and style, and be deft with computer programs. This means industrial designers can come from a number of educational programs.

They may complete bachelor's degrees in industrial design, fine arts, engineering, architecture, graphic design, or computer programming. There are also college courses in most of these areas to supplement the degree. For example,they may choose to take some computer courses at a college if their university degree was in visual art.

There are also some masters' programs in industrial design available for those who are interested in advancing their careers, skills, and knowledge.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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