Industrial Design vs. Mechanical Engineering

Being someone who is interested in all aspects of Industrial Design, yet not professionally trained in it, I am wondering about peoples thoughts of how Engineers and Designers interact. I don’t need to hear about how engineers always “ruin” designer’s aesthetic intent by trying to over simplify something… I would like to hear how the two fields interact in a good way.

What are some things that ME’s do that help designers or vice versa? And so on.

I’m not an engineer either, but I’m looking at both professions as a career move.


All I ever hear about is how some engineer messed something up that a designer did, or how an engineer came up with something that a designer couldn’t have. The thread about the new Segway transporter has the same kind of disscussion going on. Thats why I don’t want to hear about the bad stuff.

My hope is to be a combination of both Industrial Designer and Mech engineer, but I can see the obvious benefits of doing one or the other.

Interesting to see that an ID firm helped develop that thing.
It does depend on where you listen as to what you start to take as fact or truth. I guess thats why I started the thread, just to get a second opinion.

Thanks for the insite Deez.

Oddly enough, I am neither an Industrial Designer or a Mechanical Engineer and somehow I wandered my way into design engineering and industrial design. I have a BS in Optical Engineering but I started designing handheld optical devices, then non optical devices, then enclosures for harsh environments and then ID stuff of all kinds. My focus now is mostly on medical devices but I have designed everything from computer enclosures to endoscope handsets. It goes to show that what you start out doing in school will not necessarily dictate your career.

Back on topic, while in many cases engineers and industrial designers do clash, the truely successful engineers and designers are blends of both professions and know how to work together. There is a lot of great work and a lot of money to be made by designers with engineering sensibilities and engineers with design sensibilities. Just because you choose to become one or the other doesn’t and shouldn’t mean you forget about the other field. In my case, I fairly equally weight both field depending on the project and find help on which ever side I maybe deficient. The sooner we all learn that engineering and design and engineer are hand in hand, the sooner we will make better products.

My personal advice, which mirrors Deez’s, is to go for the engineering degree and take plenty of art classes on the side. You will keep yourself grounded in the math and physics of engineering but still maintain that esthetic sensibility that comes with being an artist. Best of luck to you.

Hi there, I’m from Asia. But I’m very intrigued by the conversation that you guys have been talking about.

I’m both Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering trained. I have justed graduated from an Industrial Design program. I did Mechanical Engineering diploma prior to the start of my ID course 3 years back.

I would say its a blessing that I’m engineering grounded in physics, mechanics and materials. Which is quite useful when coming to design a product. I noticed as compared to other of my peers, they have difficulties in trying to grasp the subjects taught in ID which is the fundamentals. They lament that the engineering subjects taught in ID were not understood better than those at Mechanical Engineering.

Yes I agree that ID and ME have constant disputes, and the fact is true. Well I guess hard though if we were to married both courses together. But it would be a good thing to see each other’s strengths and good points to come out with good ergonomic products.

My thoughts.

I did first year mechanical engineering. It drove me crazy. Ok, not crazy, but the lack of creativity really bothered me. So I figured industrial design was what I wanted.

Now, reading this thread, I’m starting to get worried about the possible lack of engineering principles in industrial design. Could anyone set the record straight for me on that? How much engineering is involved in ID?

The reason I’m curious is because, despite the lack of creativity in engineering bothering me, doing first year engineering really gave me great respect for what engineers do. It made me look at the world completely differently, seeing how on earth they managed to build all the things around us, and making sure that they didn’t fail.

This change meant that as much as I wanted to design things and make them aesthetically pleasing, I wanted to make sure I knew how they worked. So, again, how much engineering is involved in ID? Are there any schools that do well in the engineering aspect of things? Granted, I don’t want to be doing math the whole time. I’d like the focus to be design. I’d just like to have a good grasp of how my designs would work. If you can think of any schools that would be good for that please tell me.

Well it depends…if you want to be a rockstar then go for ID. :laughing: