Industrial Design and where it is going?

Can anyone direct me towards unbiased information regarding the field of industrial design and where it is projected to go in the future? I have been a student in product design for 2 years now and am just curious of where it is going now.

I feel personally that design is a rapidly growing field in general because that is how media portrays it but any unbiased and or outside information on it would be the best.


I’ve already stated that I think Industrial Design is a dead field. I’ve thrown my hat into what I call Transreality Design.

how so? seems like there many jobs out there, growing competition, but i could be wrong…

I didn’t say design was dying. It’s the “industrial” part that’s dying. The tag itself has diminished in meaning from when the occupational term was coined. It’s becoming meaningless. Worse yet, it’s a confusing term. The general public, if asked, is just as likely to say an Industrial Designer is a person who designs factories!

And just bc there are ID jobs doesn’t mean that there is real industrial design going on (if we could even all agree on what that means). I know some people who do nothing but copy aesthetics, throw it into CAD and call it a day. And that’s what they were hired to do. I don’t call that ID. Where’s the real “design” in that? So even beyond the changes coming due to breakthroughs in fabrication techniques (like Metal Laser Melting), the term itself has become diluted. Anyone and everyone is a “designer” today. Just like I’m a journalist, a chef, a financier, an investment analyst, etc etc.

As far as I’m concerned, we may as well scrap the term entirely. We could perhaps stake out Product Design (as distinct from Product Engineer). And there are other areas as well. But Industrial Design suffers on several counts. Let it go.

ok, but isn’t that just semantics? what is the distinction between industrial and product design? is there one?

I don’t agree it’s just semantics. It’s defining. It says an Industrial Designer (who doesn’t design factories), designs for industrial processes. But while that might have been true years ago, it’s not always true now. I’ve worked on projects where we told the client their process of choice was wrong. Of course in that case we just designed for a different industrial process. But industrial processes themselves are changing. We’re moving away from “industrial” in the old traditional sense of the word. There’s nothing inherently industrial about RM. A household blender is a kind of RM that takes raw material, processes it and converts it to something else (remember: the U.S. was considering counting fast-food hamburger flipping as jobs for the Manufacturing Sector; they might be doing that now).

For example, is someone who designs limited-run toys an “Industrial Designer”? Like Itokin? No. He’s a toy designer who makes his limited-run creations using standard modelmaking techniques. Nothing high-volume industrial about them. Now if he has parts fabricated using a service bureau with an RP machine, is that industrial? The answer is still “No”.

Are the people designing SLS lamps “Industrial Designers”? Not really. They’re fabbing their lights using different processes that free them from the kinds of restrictions that created the ID field in the first place, so how can they be “industrial” designers? I’d call them “Lighting Designers” or more generally “Product Designers” (and “Product Engineers” if they did that as well).

We should shed the term and be happy to do so. Let that occupational term die and along with it all the inherent assumptions and restrictions that go with it. I’d rather we have a broader “Product Design” category that includes anyone who designs an object and has it fabricated in multiples that are then sold. This would move many of us closer to sculpture and bring some sculptors more into our area. And I think that’s where everything is going, because the only reason to design an ugly box is because the company told you that you couldn’t pull slides, the shut-offs had to be 7degrees, the shape had to be simple to tool, and the parting line had to be flat. Those days are ending.

I have seen many people asking about the difference. Some people even explain the difference.

But i think that product and industrial refer to 2 differents questions :

what ? : product
how ? : industrial method

how i understand that :

Product Designer designs products no matter how they are produced

Industrial Designer designs anything that’s should use an industrial method to be produced

Industrial Product Designer designs products which are industrialy produced.

what do you think ? Am i right or wrong ?

I typed my answer before seeing csven answer… it’s a bit the same idea…sorry for that.

Don’t apologize. Your’s gets to the difference between the two quickly. I’m trying to tie this into the future of the profession (which most people probably don’t really care to read about).

I don’t agree it’s just semantics. It’s defining. It says an Industrial Designer (who doesn’t design factories), designs for industrial processes. But while that might have been true years ago, it’s not always true now.

ahh, i thought that was what you meant. i guess what i was trying to say that the two are saying the the same thing to the people that need to know, even if the term "industrial has become somewhat of a misnomer and the profession is/will be eveloving beyond industrial processes…

when i would tell people what i was studying industrial design i would get the “factories” response, product design is almost always instantly understood. so i do i agree that product designer is more descriptive and perhaps more accurate, but does it matter?

btw i check out your site from time to time, very interesting stuff, even if some of it goes over my head, haha…

Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind maps it out pretty clearly.

So does Rifkin in the Age of Access, only in the back of the book though.

I recall hearing about Pink’s book. Sounded like he documented the obvious to me (and I can’t believe most designers weren’t/aren’t aware of what was happening - what with so much CAD and grunt work heading offshore).

Where in his book does he get into the future of design?