Industrial Design Vs Product Design

Hi guys,

That day i came across the discussion board posted something rather similar regarding this topic, unfortunately i couldn’t find it. In that discussion people are talking about the differences between " terms" Industrial Design & Product Design.

I’d always known that Industrial Design - is a mass produced term used - or rather Product & Industrial is just a term, perhaps just different spelling. ( Even Yo had stated that not all Industrial goods are mass produced ).

I was actually taken aback when i was inquiring for for a Product Design Degree Program, as i’m a graduate Diploma in Industrial Design. The lecturer told me that Product Design differs from what i was learning before so it might be a little bit different, which product design focus more on the aesthetics & lesser part on the ergonomics unlike the Industrial Design.
( i was/am … troubled as i’d always place ergonomics as one of the main principles in designing ). Any thoughts on this ?
All these while i regard Industrial & Product design as the same! ? :exclamation:


What an idiot :wink:

He’s probably one of those designers that make a flashy chair but your actually be better of sitting on a pile of rocks.

atohms - Why don’t you go to Fox News where they prefer to stop a discussion whether than starting one. Try to talk intelligently when in the presence of others.

onion24 - After the many times this has been discussed both here and in other places I will attempt to distill what has been said in order to create a starting point for discussion.

The two terms come from different ages of the profession. Product design was used earlier and in the 50’s or 60’s Industrial Design became the agreed on term for our profession. It remains mixed and even I use the older term sometimes because most people don’t know what an Industrial Designer is. They think we build factories or we are Industrial engineers.

In the Human Resources world, I usually see Product Designer to mean CAD jockey, or someone with training in CAD but no bachelor’s degree.

Any other thoughts?

What school was this?

Ok that might have been an bit harsh and direct but still for me this (non-topic issue) is a non-question/discussion. Whoever puts looks and styling before practicability and ergonomics is an idiot in my book. :blush: Oops I did it again :wink:

To me there’s no difference between a product-designer and an industrial designer. (Tomato/Tomatoe?)

Usually when I need to explain what I do I use the term product designer. Otherwise people really don’t get it.
And even then it’s hard to explain. They just don’t seem to get the idea that the products around them where made and thought out by other people. I find that really strange. So nowadays I find myself using the term inventor more and more because people do know what an inventor does :wink:

PS/ please don’t compare me to FOX news. It’s insulting

After talking to atohms off line, I understand he was trying to be ironic/critical. So understanding that I take back my comment to him. Also my over forty eyes did not make out the smile/wink symbol. Sorry about that.

Answering the meaning of life is easier than this :smiley: (its 42 btw)

From what i have learned about these two types of design through applying to university is that product designers are more engineering based whilst Industrial designers just do the idea and get someone else to make it work. Industrial design is generally more mass-produced too.

Its very confusing, the names are misleading, the content differs, there are no definitive outlining rules, and whats more alot of it is down to personal experience/belief.

I prefer industrial design :smiley:

electronic sarcasm is the toughest.

Isn’t there now a sarcasm icon or character for us to use? If not there ought to be.

I used to think Product design and Industrial design were interchangeable as well, and while I don’t agree with the above definition about ID having content and PD having style (?), I think there is a difference.

The way I have come to understand it, take it or leave it, it this. Industrial design is a subcategory of product design, there are lot’s of different types of products.

Let’s take a throw pillow, I wouldn’t want an Industrial designer to do this, I would go find a surface designer with a background in patterns and prints. Or stationery, it’s a product, greeting cards, note pads etc, I would want a graphic designer to do that. Industrial design may be a very large part of the product design realm, but it isn’t the only game in town right?

So, I would also like to submit the idea that successful looks and styling elevate people minds and thus enrich their lives. What is the problem with something being conceptual and focusing on the visual? Isn’t developing iconic forms one of the pillars of design, regardless of the discipline? Anyone can just sit on a rock, design is supposed to be taking peoples idea of a chair and pushing them in all directions, in functionality, beauty, manufacture, sustainability, ergonomics, all of it, none of these are more important that any other, and choosing one area to really work in shouldn’t make the designer the subject of ridicule.

And what if a chair is designed and fails? what do we learn when everyone agrees on the definition of a chair? How are our lives enriched by just one concept of anything?

Does anyone else share this idea that by attempting good design work, even when we fail, we enrich the lives of the people who encounter it? I hope someone here does.

It’s also not a one or the other. We have teams of people not to have just more of the same hands, but different kinds of hands. On our team we have industrial designers, graphic designers, illustrators, we even had a furniture designer for awhile… and we all collaborate on making footwear. Different kinds of minds = more well rounded team = better product in my opinion.

Maybe an Industrial Designer is something you are, and product design is something you do.
(to miss-quote KRS1 “Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live”)

PS, if there was a sarcasm emoticon, it would pretty much be on every post…

Exactly, i just can’t take the fact that to style & to ignore the basic principles of design such as Ergonomic. It’s not like it’s visual art, people used it…

If there was a sarcasm emotion I would have to have it tattooed to my forehead :laughing:

Isn’t that what a sculptor/artist does?
We are not artists. We are people that create products which will be used in millions of people’s every-day lives. Therefore practicability and ergonomics is more important than looks. There’s lots of products where this isn’t the case, I know, especially in automotive design. And it saddens and frustrates me a lot.

I agree with you with the failing-part. I’ll give more points to a student who has experimented, trailed and failed than one who took the easy road. Failing = learning. So yes I do applaud experiments and failures. But again if you create a great looking chair but you can’t sit on it because it hurts than you really have made a bad product.



Even certain visual arts & interface or interaction designs applies ergonomic.

Industrial design goes into more the aesthetic and ergonomics of the product (BA)

Product Design (BSC) covers more the science of materials and stresses involved with operating this product, it involves more a balance of the arts and sciences.

I think this misses the mark entirely and I would like to respectfully disagree with this characterization. ID is a sub-element of Product design, as it takes more than ID to fully design and bring a product to market, and there are many products that involve little or no industrial design.

Furthermore, ID is very involved in the balance of arts and sciences, as designers draw skills from both areas. Next, at least intermediate knowledge of materials with expert knowledge of those directly pertaining to your current product area is necessary. Operation and user experience are a huge part of ID.

Saying ID deals mostly with aesthetics and ergonomics is erroneous not because the aesthetic and ergonomic elements are not important, but they are part of a larger set of considerations.

Distribution (flat packing anyone?)
Usability and user experience
Material choices
Research and incorporation of gleaned information
Anyone else care to jump in at any time here.

I would even say that as far as sub-categories of product design, ID is among the least concerned with aesthetics (especially judged by some of the things I have heard here). Surface design, graphic design, architecture and furniture design are all far more concerned with creating iconic imagery and forms than ID.

I think the problem is, no one really knows what the difference is anymore, is there is a difference at all? Designers have used either term in the past to distance themselves from their competitors, or they have created their own terms for what they do: ‘We’re no longer product designers or industrial designers, were solutionists’ - yawn.

Many Universities have their own ideas about the definitions and build courses on those beliefs, which is why very few courses under either heading seem alike from one university to the next, or worse a product design and industrial design course from two different universities are almost identical.

It’s different for other professions, ‘I’m a highways maintenance operative’
‘Oh, you’re a road sweeper’
Either way, people know exactly what you do and put you in the comfortable place in their mind, where you’re not an un-known quantity, because they understand your purpose. With design, industrial or product, people struggle to grasp all its intricacies - there’s been numerous threads about how difficult it can be to explain to people what a designer does. If everyone uses the terms in different contexts and no one agrees, then there will always be confusion. But that said, all universities describe their courses, so you can choose regardless of heading and companies list themselves under both Product and industrial on business pages and for job adverts etc.

So I’ll chip in and speculate its the same thing and even if some of you disagree, today I’ve decided to call myself a ‘homewares architect’ - doesn’t change what I do (which is not a lot). You can waste too much time trying to pigeon hole either yourself or others. Variety is the spice of life, wear different hats to suit your mood (or job you’re going for or doing that week) Where is that sarcasm emoticon? Ahh, this little guy will do :mrgreen:

Lets try this one on for size:

ID - Business based and centering around the user.

PD - Business based and centering around manufacturing.

I, of course, expect much disagreement with this, but lets see where this leads us.

That’s not bad, Tim. I actually use both in my company. While there’s definitely overlap, I’ve view the act of industrial design as being a fairly discreet portion of the entire product design process–typically towards the front end and typically having to do with aesthetics and user experience. That’s not to say that industrial designers have to be limited to that discreet portion (my services extend far past what one would consider typical industrial design).

When I do a project that’s largely a styling exercise (and I then hand it off to an engineer or the client to take to production), I’m typically doing industrial design. When I do the entire thing including doing the part and assembly design and production database (which is more typical for me), I think of that as product design. So you’re connection to manufacturing seems right.

But I would take a more holistic view and prefer to see what I do generally as product design. I know that our profession calls us industrial designers, but my participation goes far beyond that.