In a sentance, What is Industrial Design?

I have recently moved to a new city and everyone always asks “what is Industrial Design”? I have trouble briefly explaining it in a few sentences, so I was wondering how other designers describe it to those who have no idea what ID is?

Wow! one sentence. It’s much more complicated than one sentnece. but if you must, you must…

tell them that it is basically everything un-natural that they come in contact with on a daily basis. smog, polution, cars, garbage yep! even the bad stuff

if you need to explain what it is that you do or study as an industrial designer it is best if you are honest and tell them who you work for and what you work on for that company.

most people including the iders themselves don’t even realize what they do.

It’s a good exercise.

I think I would go with something like:

Design is making the future.

And if they ask further questions, roll from there, if not, they don’t really want to know anyway.

Industrial design (ID) is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer. -IDSA

Design is making the future, that is perhaps one of the better that I’ve heard.

because it is true.

Children are making the future.
War is making the future.
Consumerism is making the future.
Global warming is making the future.
Technology is making the future.
Religion is making the future.
Plastics are making the future.

Let’s get a bit more specific.

Design can teach children
Design can support war
Design supports consumerism
Design aids global warming
Design drives technology
Design creates religion
Design utilizes plastics


The purpose of this thread was to explain design simply for people who were unfamiliar with the idea.

Design does make the future.

would you really use that definition to explain to the “uninitiated” what it is that you do?

Design is making the future.

that is a vague, but cool way to define design…and probably leaves a good impression on people…

Design is making the future.

sounds cool. if you are emo and full of yourself, and a large load of .***.

i’m not sure how much swearing i could get into here without getting thrown off the board, but you are earning at least that much abuse.

wtf, you got out of a four-year degree-granting program for a narrowly focused field like ID, and you can’t explain to people what it is?

did you sleep through college?

Please… Enlighten us Concretebox.

Industrial design (ID) is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer. -IDSA

No, thats a bit too poindexter for most people. It gets into ‘systems’ … a tricky concept for a one-sentence explanation.

If the mission is to explain to someone what ID is how about you start with something they already maybe understand and build on that?

So, say… “You know what a graphic designer does?” (They probably don’t fully understand that either, but they have heard of it before.)

"Ok, a graphic designer designs things that will be printed on paper, or displayed on a computer screen, flat things like that… Industrial designers work on three-dimensional things (and sometimes interfaces and processes/systems) like … virtually everything you buy and use every day. Appliances, tools, cars, fixtures, toys and all that stuff … "

and you can go on from there to talk about how many things are made without industrial designers, either vernacular (another new vocabulary word) products that have evolved over time or products designed by the experience of the maker and engineers.

You can go on to explain systems, systems science, materials science, ergonomics, cost-optimization, styling, branding and marketing, design management and all that if you understand it well enough.

How you explain it depends greatly on who you are telling.

The script I just gave you, free of charge, works well on the average educated person who knows what a graphic designer is.

I’d reframe it for someone else, if I needed to.

Try not to project so much next time, it’s not a good look.

Haha, I knew this topic would get one of these responses.

I understand what ID is, but the subject of this topic is to briefly describe it to someone who has never heard of ID. When most people hear Industrial design they assume I am an engineer or I design factories.

I thought it would be interesting to hear everyones brief explanation and see how they differ.

ID is narrowly focused???
I am anxious to hear yours concretebox

When most people hear Industrial design they assume I am an engineer or I design factories.

too true.

at some places, like Harley-Davidson, I have heard that they call their ID people “stylists,” which pisses off some IDs, of course, since it seems less technical, less professional, more like something anyone could do, but at least it differentiates them from the guy that is doing the HVAC layout. [/i]

Wasn’t ithe thread to briefly describe What ID is

The answer is going to be a little different for eveyone, I particularly enjoyed YO’S words “Design is making the furure” because it is a hook, and it is easy for most people who are not designers to imagine what that could mean. It’s up to you how you explain it after the hook. You know get their brain juices flowing let them be a little CREATIVE. that way they may remember. Instead of telling them a definition from the IDSA web site that primarily Industrial Designers look at.

Chance are that using the definition from the IDSA web site would go in one ear and out the other. One because it is in a jargon they may be unfamiliar with and two It is a little dry. No offense to the IDSA.

Don’t you think that engaging their imagination would stimulate better converstaion, where you would want to tell them more and they would actually want to hear it. It’s up to you how you explain it there is not one way that is the best.


Everyone here is right, sometimes it´s hard to explain in a few words what IDs do, and sometimes people won´t get it.

But if I would have to explain in a few words what we do, I´ll say this:

IDs create products that satisfy the needs of the society.

Design is making the future…in order to generate money.

The simple version: Industrial (aka Product) Design is the process of conceptualizing and visualizing products.

Slightly longer: Industrial Design constitutes idea generation, and then visualization of those ideas through sketching and rendering, by computer or hand, and model making.

Things we can do:

Think creatively and generate product ideas
Sketching, rendering, computer or by hand
Model Making
Graphic Design and Typography


Industrial Design is method of thinking through informed observation and rapid trial and error development of objects, systems and experiences.