But really...what IS industrial design?

It’s quite ironic that you bring up Papanek. Yes I have read his books (unfortunately, I was one of few of my classmates that did), and I also express a similar sense of disgust, regret and hope for the field of ID.
It is quite surprising to several of my collegues that I even chose to teach this children’s course due to the mixed feelings I hold towards this profession. They fear that I am promoting a career opportunity to these inner-city youth, that in the past I have outwardly challenged. But, it is important to question the establishments that you have submitted to, even if just for the sake of naiveity and/or curiosity. But also, we are devoting our lives and careers to it… I think it is worth examining the varied opportunities and range of opinions of those opportunities that lie before us. (Does that make any sense?)

‘This challenge’ has probably even more so enlivened my sense of enthusiasm (and optimism) about the possibilities and potential of the field of ID, even while many of you (with years more of experience than myself) seem to have lost hope and given in to a system you have no faith in.

IN RESPONSE to Realistic:
Beautiful. I thank you for spending the time to articulate your thoughts and experiences so eloquently.

A few phrases worth highlighting:

product design was not just a generic word for anything decorative but a > rigorous, systematic, highly creative endeavour with the noble goal of translating technology for the common good first, and industry’s bottom line a clear second. > We only hoped that more and more firms would actually link profit and responsible design that made products safer, easier and more practical and enjoyable to use.

My main lament is not so much the current pathetic and convoluted state of affairs, but more the realization that > nowhere, no one is doing anything to change all this. > That would mean the bureaucratic inertia of design academia, “professional” bodies and industry have contaminated us to the point of paralysis as many of us respond robotically to client demands for fear of retribution in a slow job market. If being an industrial designer has finally come to strictly holding down a job, you all should stop whining about being misunderstood out there. > You reap what you sow in life, and there are plenty of individuals ready to capitalize on ID’s lack of inside consensus and a strong voice.

ID is/was/could be…

the complete architecture of mass-produced goods, overseeing the different actors (specialists) involved to obtain a fully-resolved, consistent end result responding to the designer’s unified vision, creative intent and understanding of the situation at hand, not unlike the role of a film director.

Mk, maybe you’re better off just telling the impressionable kids we just draw up stuff for a living and hope someone buys it from us. No need to scare them off with all this.

Posing this question was not merely a search to find an answer for the kids. But also, I was looking for other designers that have actually stepped back to take a look at this field that they have committed to. Why do we do what we do? Do we even know what it is we are doing? It really is incredible how much power we have as Idesigners to impact the environment and society (locally, nationally and internationally) on issues ranging from the products of our intimate daily routines to ‘invisible’ systems that have infilitrated millions of lives.

Do designers think about these issues? Some do of course. But as discussed in many of these postings, many/most ID bottomlines do not seem to consider anything beyond the effort to feed this cycle of consumerism. That cycle being- consume and consume some more (ignorant or aware of the repercussions) whether that be from the perspective of the client, designer or consumer. Just put something out there, anything. And repeat.
It is sick.

Realistic, I look forward to your future post in which you share some of your ideas of the numerous opportunities that lay before us. (And I hope others will tune in too).

Peace to all.

Talk about optimism!

The unfortunate truth:
Today in IRAQ: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3932123.stm
Today in SUDAN: BBC News - Q&A: Sudan's Darfur conflict

But I suppose we can be hopeful… change will come.
Thanks again.

wow…it is mind-numbing…as an id student soon to be on the job hunt it is in one sense to depressing to read what realistic wrote, that this might be the current state of id, yet on the other hand i can not help but believe that it has to be or only get better.

who is to blame for this? is it the companies, the schools, the students, or perhaps professionals?

at first my whole reason for getting into id & opting out of architecture was superficial, i wanted to be able to create something that maybe people would be able to connect with (like your favorite sneaker), i still believe that is a good chunk of what id is…i realize it can be more than that.

my questions to all are:

  1. what is so bad about being an exterior stylist? no matter how well designed, ergonomic, functional, useful, etc, the product is if it does not look good it is not going move off the shelves.

  2. are iders soley responsible for the current state of fast food type design? i can not say i know of or like the designers named as the rockstar’s of design, but what exactly are they supposed to do about what is going on in the marketplace? what good is a cohesive voice if companies only see the bottom line?

  3. lastly, what do you suppose id should be ideally, and how do we make that happen?

this discussion has been informative to read to say the least, i really hope that there is a middleground.

To answer toke 99:
I don’t think it’s ugly to do styling and exterior, but you have to ask yourself if you want to do something for the world or not. Another chair might do someone happy, but a new water transportaion (IIT project)system in the slums of Rio, will make hundreds or thousand happy.
The fantastic thing about ID is that you can do both!

I think everyone have to look out and realise the Asian market will grow better. I know it’s not the quantity but I’ve heard that China is starting 2000 new designschools in the next ten years! And in one school in South-Korea they craduate 2000-3000 students each year… They will soon take care of them selfs and they are closer the production!

But I would like more designers to have a ethical plan for their company, will you do all the jobs you’re offered or do you have restrictions agains weapons and tobacco for example?

I know I’m out of the topic… But I have to outpu some after reading all this…

There have been alot of good thoughts here, but in the interest of balance, let me give a tug on the thread.

There are bad products out that have crap design/engineering. This is a constant. They have always existed, and probably always will since many people in the world view the collection of junk to be the goal of life. American’s are actually on the way out of this maddening world in my opinion, but it seems that corporations are trying their best to sell the Chinese and Indians on buying our old “American dream”. When 1.8 billion people buy into that dream, I think the world will be dangerously close to becoming out of balance. Luckily, with oil production peaking within the next few years, there won’t be enought to support a Chinese/Indian consumer culture for very long.

As a designer, I feel no guilt for designing products that give people a little joy. I know the ramifications, and I accept them. It is impossible for us as humans to not impact our world. We could all convert to Jianism, which I highly suggest to designers riddled with guilt. You can become a vegetarian who walks around with a mask on to try not to kill all the bacteria that are floating in our atmosphere. But even the strictist Jian kills things…it’s our nature. All those veggies have the potential to grow into plants, just like a sperm and an eff have the potential to turn into a human. We are just being biased if we think there is a large difference, they are both life. So to the guilt ridden designers and students…accept that your fate is to feed off and take advantage of others, and work your hardest to do so the least you possibly can.

The design stars of today are nothing new. Perhaps the height of their fame is higher than before, but I can name quite a few old stars. Loewy was pretty well known, and mostly for his styling. He never reinvented the train experience, but he did restyle a good number of train exteriors. He never gave Studebaker the quality it needed to truly compete with the Big 3, but he did do some very memorably beautiful styling excercises. Frank Lloyd Wright would be the closest to a design star. In his day, he was known as well as many movie stars (and his private life was just as up and down). These stars were followed by others, Colombo, Rams, Sottsass etc. To sum up, one shouldn’t blame Rashid for the state of design, he has been able to be a better Loewy.

Same guy, I just didn’t feel like logging in.

Styling is not a bad thing, it is essential, but you must realize that it is only one small part of a much larger process called industrial design.

Industrial Design in itself is a marketing scheme generated by “industrial designers”. ID is this “thing” which IDers are promoting to product developers and try to convince them that they can’t live without this “thing”. They pray that the greed of a potential client will win them over and that way they can do their magic act (ie. presentation) and in turn get paid for it. You could say that IDers are car salesmen with 3D and sketching capability.

The need for ID has changed dramatically in the last few decades. I went to design school at a time when you frequently didn’t have much of a choice when it came to products, and invariably you were forced into a poor compromise. At the time I felt a need to make the world a better place by identifying and fixing these obvious faults. Today there is much less need because there are a TON more products out there in every category–today you choose better design.

This shift has created new problems and opportunities:

  1. Oversaturation and information overload. As a result we have design trends like simplification, authenticity and retro which help us seek solstice.
  2. As the number of products approach infinity, the number of users approach zero. (Micro-niche’s and hyper-personalization.)
  3. The emergence of the designer-as-rockstar. (Why not, now that “everything” is designed, let’s have fun with it!)

We also have to recognize that we’re leaving the “Industrial” revolution and entering the “Information” revolution. As such, it only makes sense that “Industrial Design” would evolve. Entertainment Design, Interaction Design, Experience Design, Strategic Design Planning etc. are now hot spinoff fields that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

For all these reasons, if I were going into school today, it would be for very different reasons.
I’d say that the definition of ID hasn’t changed, but it’s value definitely has.

For all these reasons, if I were going into school today, it would be for very different reasons.
I’d say that the definition of ID hasn’t changed, but it’s value definitely has.

IN RESPONSE TO Cg and ALL: I agree. Times have changed and hopefully this greater awareness of possibilities and specializations will bring us to a point where Idesigners can contribute-both as global citizens, as well as community members through our broad reach of mass production as well as our awareness of the ‘local.’ …thereby, increasing the ‘value’ and reputation of ID.

Instead of simply satisfying the greedy’s desire for ‘cool’ ‘trendy’ ‘cutting edge’ and even -dare I say- ‘beautiful,’ we will find opportunities to locate a need and collaboratively and resourcefully tackle it. Sure we will find more problems to tackle, but hopefully they will not be problems that we ourselves have created.

But as you can see through some of the recent posts, students are going to design school to be stylists, specifically the stylist of cool. I graduated with many that know nothing beyond model-making, curves, forms and the relationship of forms in space. Where are the problem solvers? Where are the critical thinkers? (This is why I posted this question! I have envisioned the field one way, my collegues and peers another…I work with professionals with yet another…and then the varying views of academia…)

I most definitely entered design school with a different mindset than my departure. Allowing my experiences outside the realm of “ID” to inspire and provide insight, proved to be much more valuable to my educational experience than the exercises in styling…but I guess I’m not meant to be a stylist.

One of the biggest ironies that I encounte in ID field is that most of the stuff that I end up designing, I cannot afford

The stuff is so poorly made I wouldn’t waste my money

The stuff is so poorly made I wouldn’t waste my money

who’s falt is that, as a designer you have input on this…if you are insistant on the quality to the client. Or perhapse you are styling not designing.

What an asswipe. There’s a big difference between input and final decision which perhapse you don’t know from any practical experience.

From my own personal experience where the factory is a different business unit reporting it’s own Profits and Losses statements, it’s not just ID, but Marketing and ID and Engineering getting trumped by Manufacturing. And if you want to say it’s because I was “styling” and not “designing” (as if you even knew what the difference was since you’re talking “client” the way a consultant Stylist would talk), let’s just say that the tooling people 1) couldn’t understand or explain why Manufacturing changed my design so that the tool had “knife-edge” blades extending into the housing and 2) went from a one-piece part with open-and-shut tooling to a complex two-piece part (after they bastardized my shapes).

Perhapse you should keep your inexperienced mouth shut instead of insinuating sh*t. You come off sounding like a pr1ck but maybe that’s because you are one.

A little brash, but well put. Also illustrates the point of knowing and working with your manufacturing plants from the beginning on through the first off pieces. Bet they were tooled in China, and by the lowest bidder. Had the same problem on one of my last jobs, client found a manufacturer outside of our network of partners who said they could do it for half the cost. Once they saw the first offs the client came back and used the manufacturing vendor we consulted with throughout the development.

BTW I am in a consultancy, and refer to my projects as clients, yet I have not done a purely styling job in 9 months.

industrial design defined as a profession

the diff btween industrial designers and engineers, marketers or artists is

the fact that they connect each dicipline and use them all to produce something with an elegance achieved through the hybrid-effect of combining multiple perceptions.

therefore this philosophy leads to leaps and bounds of formulation & development.

the arts concerning the synthisis of new things into reality. are they consideed the service industry to the industrial designers.

the formulaitive nature of “the process” as itself, a product, can be informed with marketing data to produce styling effects / lingo.

the communication of such conceptual presentations and the political influence involved with the follow-through of concept and the suddle details which make it what it is/supposed to be.

I think this is a broad outline of a specific description which captures the essence of industrial design.

I think the word design has not caught up to the context around it which has recently exploded on the mainstream scene. even when design is what the mainstream scene is made of.

design remains a variable and industrial design suggests the true meaning of the word design. because the encompassation of this feild is the one thing which makes it unique. there is also the fundemental nature of the synthetic and “man-made” which is industries chicken and egg scenario.

floaty thinking with brass tacks appeal is what this is about.

“dreaming with reality”

problems with industrial design defined as a profession exist:

  1. too many me-too repeatitive all ready done cliche’s.

  2. The ready-made design/build natures of fabrication as a profession poses a problem which mimics an engineering “cant be done” over-analistic attitude.

theres an airyness and flexibilities which support industrial design as a process of $value$ formulation.

similar to the use of the word - treatment when talking about 4d (time based visual effects) /movies.

any ability can be treated as a service.

when someone with true industrial design abilities and talent attempts to classify themselves for the eager purposes of selling ones services or education there of, problems occur.

problems which have a great deal to do with the mis-appropriation of the abilities. too much of this and the designer may become confused or chiseled down into a producer of items ( drawings/modells/renderings) which may or may not contain any relevant value whatsoever, reguardless of how fabulous the items may be. the content is not clear enough in the mind of the customer to begin with, or the customer is abusive with their position and rhetoric involving the “show me some ideas untill I see what I want” . The playing feild of designing things gets over-run with the spectators. the skeptics heckle. when the formulated product appears to be something elegant, it can be seen as simple. well, less is more. e=mc2 has some math backing it up.

the un-defined nature of “ID” speaks to its universal reality of existence in the world as an art. such as art can be a variable when evrything in the world can be examined as if it were a work of art. art as a way of life when everything one dose and interacts with is some form of it , including the pholosophy surrounding the idea art is everything.

with that being said, it’s safe to say that an industrial designer in-effect, is someone who designs industry?

for example, at apple computer, steve jobs is the industrial designer of the personal computer industry. intel, motorola, ibm, microsoft, are companies which enabled the personal computer to be realized.

someone who makes drawings to formulate ideas about how the product may look is a stylist. the developer who makes the cad model of the design derivitive with the pre-tenses surrounding tool design and manufatreability is an engineer or design-engineer. the one who produces concepts surrounding the direct in-store sale of the item is a marketer.
everyone involved in the development effort is some kind of industrial designer in their own ways.

if educators have failed in their attempts at developing and solidifying a new profession with “industrial design” as a lable.

who have they failed? corporate america? jobless people expecting a real environment for their work? graduates of outdated id programs?

what are the percentages of designers who strictly visualize verses designers who strictly formulate?

what if a designers abilities are liqudated and sold off as peices in a service industry. what dangers exist to the perception of id and its asociated value in the market when the designer cant seem to properly identify their true value. They are expected to sell themselves? when they cant even define what they are usefull for?.

what happens when they know what they are supposed to be doing. In order to do it, they must take the helm and become a director. the risk involved there is too complex and definitely married to the politics of the owners.

its as if the designer must have free-reign in order to perform at all.
if the designer dose not have the allowance of creative controll, then they stop being the designer and start being the illustrator, sculptor, stylist, communicator.

It is not, nor it should be , the intent for the ID-er to compete with the illustration communities. so there enlies a way to specify industrial designer among this shared discipline. get an illustrator to do a rendering or to be a sketch artist.

an illustrator becomes an industrial designer when sketching is an activity utilized as a tool to formulate ideas about function, shape or color concerning some goal to generate a new gizmo or widget of some sort.

an illustrator designs graphics. there is an art to it in it and the result of which is art.

graphic designer?

why would’nt you hire an illustrator to make a 3d model of some object they illustrated. or when graphics become energized with the utilitarian nature of interactivity. what about motion video artists? I’m sure they would want to do some functional graphic interface or something as well.

would it be safe to call artists who are hired to execute art-work as a service, artisans .

then would we call producers and directors artists?

then what would that make the artists of today? craftspeople?

then we must elevate our ranges of understanding what we call craft.

craft like space-craft - not craft like paper-mache’.

I think I use paper-mache’ correctly based on the performance associated with a mardi-gras mask in a mach-2 wind-tunnel.