Future of Product Design

I am currently in high school and I am deciding whether or not to major in industrial design or not.
In 20 years, will there still be a demand for industrial designers in the US? Or is it a smarter career move to major in user or interaction design.
Any suggestions?

If you’re basing your decision solely on demand and not what you enjoy doing then just study Computer Science and get coding, or Robotics.

In my opinion yes, there will definitely be jobs for industrial designers, but I think you need to expand your mind to understand what that means. Industrial designers are increasingly required to work on teams to design the entire journey of products and experiences. It’s also to be seen if as much digital tech will be embraced as we think due to the fact that we are already seeing groups that are retaliating against things like social media and digital products due to the negative affects that they are beginning to notice in society. In the very literal sense of traditional ID, I believe unless the world turns into a version of ready player one (doubt it) that we will always need some forms of physical products. ID in my opinion has some of the most transferable skills out of most design disciplines, I know many individuals who went to college for ID and are now doing UX, UI, experience design, “design strategy”, exhibit design, cannabis retail and packaging design, etc. etc. I also believe ID skills can help in solving some of the worlds largest problems like climate change, security, etc. when combined with other disciplines. Put aside the title ID, and I believe you will find the skills when used correctly to be very resilient and future proof.

actually Fast Co lists coder as one o the jobs that will decrease in demand with more machine learning and ai coding (computers programing computers… go straight to Sky Net :slight_smile: ) … Fast Co predicted a similar thing for UX as more interaction patterns become standardized. I’ll try to find the article.

While predicting the future is always a bit of gamble by nature, I think there are some constants in life. No matter what happens in the world people will probably still wear shoes, yes forks to eat, sit on toilets a couple of times of day.

24 years ago when I entered design school the head of the department say us down and told us that ID was dead and that there were no more jobs in it… I’ve been gainfully employed the entire time… initially purely as an industrial designer, later as an industrial design leader, and after that in strategic design leading ID, UX, brand, yada yada yada… go deep on the thing you love and then expand outward.

I would also like to add: Research any job’s future and there’s a chance there is an article talking about a robot/machine taking that job :wink:

fair enough… basically its a toss up either way so do what you love :slight_smile:

Yes we are at a time where the classic disciplines are changing and converging with each other.
The most important thing in the end is to understand the creative development process, collaborate well, have vision and be able to sell it.
If you are in a future-oriented ID program, I would say it is one of the best places to study at this time.
From a technology point of view, there is more and more demand for humanized UI taking full physical and social skills into account, so the demand for industrial designers will be enormous, it is often simply yet unseen.


This might not make as much sense to you as a high school student but one of the biggest barriers to more industrial design is mass manufacturing. Because the cost of tooling (the machines that make the parts of products) it helps companies if they can make more of the same thing to pay for that tooling. Since they have to make so many of the same thing that object has to be generic enough so the maximum number of people will buy it.

In the next 20 years if 3D printing successfully converts to on demand manufacturing it won’t matter as much what parts the machine is printing, it will only matter that it is printing something to amortize the cost of the machine. So… a prediction could be that there will be more demand for industrial design not less as people may want very individualized products. Maybe. We will see what happens to the world in 20 years (or 20 days).

zh: Taking it back to your initial question I think the short answer is “yes”, there will still be a place for Industrial designers and of course Ux for some time to come in the US and across the globe.

Think about Industrial design as the ‘noun’- the ‘what’, the thing, then think about Interaction design (Ux) as the ‘verb’- the ‘how’ and what a thing actually does. How a user interacts with a product is a combination of both ID and Ux, and while stuff becomes smarter and more interactive both ID and Ux become more inseparable. Less so, obviously, for things like furniture, shoes, salad bowls etc…

As far as career path goes there’s:

a) Design company or consultancy where work is based on project-based jobs for client companies- Lots of diversity of expertise and interesting project areas, but the pay isn’t usually fantastic, and it can be a roller coaster.


b) ‘in house’ or ‘corporate’ where you work full time in company where your focus will be on one particular market, with more specialism. A bit of a mono-culture perhaps. The $$$ compensation tends to be way better, with benefits, and depending on the company, more interesting travel to vendors, consultants etc.

There’s been a trend over the past ten years or so for design companies being acquired and integrated into corporate strategy alongside Ux and engineering and marketing, so ID isn’t going away any time soon. It has matured as a discipline, and its strategic value has been recognized as a critical factor in the success of a product.

Hope this helps.

good answer, Fluff… I would add that things like shoes and salad bowls do have UX design… everything does, but UX and IxD was only recently separated as a separate discipline. It has largely been take over by the cognitive science so it has morphed a lot in recent years.

All disciplines change of course The way we practice ID is very different than the way it was when I graduated, but the thought process is largely the same. The steps are similar, but the tools are very different.

As a complement to the above responses, here’s the Bureau of Labor Statistics answer:

Job Outlook: Employment of industrial designers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2016 to 2026, slower than the average for all occupations. Consumer demand for new products and new product styles should sustain the demand for industrial designers.

Great point.

If you focus on developing 3D printed products of value, with also individualization adding significant value, and you can automate the supply chain while ensuring quality, you will be a very successful designer/entrepreneur.

In general we see ID merge with other fields - UX, AM, AI, robotics, mechatronics, sustainable energy, smart cities…if you focus on either of these and look at the broader picture of bringing products to market you will be in demand in the future.