What you need to know
Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and usability of products when developing new product concepts.
Industrial designers work in offices in a variety of industries. Although industrial designers work primarily in offices, they may travel to testing facilities, design centers, clients’ exhibit sites, users’ homes or workplaces, and places where the product is manufactured.
Some of the things a industrial designer might do:
- Consult with clients to determine requirements for designs
- Research the various ways a particular product might be used, and who will use it
- Sketch out ideas or create renderings, which are images on paper or on a computer that provide a visual of design ideas
- Use computer software to develop virtual models of different designs
- Create physical prototypes of their designs
- Examine materials and manufacturing requirements to determine production costs
- Work with other specialists such as mechanical engineers and manufacturers to evaluate whether their design concepts will fill needs at a reasonable cost
- Evaluate product safety, appearance, and function to determine if a design is practical
- Present designs and demonstrate prototypes to clients for approval
- Analytical skills: Industrial designers use logic or reasoning skills to study consumers and recognize the need for new products.
- Artistic ability: Industrial designers sketch their initial design ideas, which are used later to create prototypes. As such, designers must be able to express their design through illustration.
- Computer skills: Industrial designers use computer-aided design software to develop their designs and create prototypes.
- Creativity: Industrial designers must be innovative in their designs and the ways in which they integrate existing technologies into their new product.
- Interpersonal skills: Industrial designers must develop cooperative working relationships with clients and colleagues who specialize in related disciplines.
- Mechanical skills: Industrial designers must understand how products are engineered, at least for the types of products that they design.
- Problem-solving skills: Industrial designers determine the need, size, and cost of a product; anticipate production issues; develop alternatives; evaluate options; and implement solutions.
The average pay for industrial designers in the United States ranges from $41,860 to $118,440 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of industrial designers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
As fewer products are made in the United States, employment of industrial designers is expected to decline in some manufacturing industries.
Although many modern products require detailed specifications as part of the design process, there is less demand for designers as these products become increasingly similar.
The increasing trend toward the use of sustainable resources is likely to improve prospects for applicants who know how to work with sustainable resources.
A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs. Most industrial design programs include courses in drawing, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), and three-dimensional modeling, as well as courses in business, industrial materials and processes, and manufacturing methods.
Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs by collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on contracts for work.