roles of an industrial designer

So a quick Q. I’m an Ider that grew up in a small consultancy in Aus (3-4 people on average) and we did it all. We were responsible for the entire development process from sketching to manufacturing documentation.

I am now based in Nth America and I get a sense things are different in Nth America by reading threads on core and experiences around me. It seems the Id guys sketch then pass off to the production engineers. Can people offer some thoughts on their experiences with the process.

My thought is that true Id is creating all aspects of the product.

I thought the same, the industrial designers on my work experience did everything. Just like you said you did in your 3 -4 team

I run a small ID firm. I do everything and wear many hats. I do find that I now soend more time dealing with proposals and clients more than actual designing. I spend 80% of the time with business or legal matters and 20% on design work…sighs.

I do everythign from research to sketching, CAD and manufacturing liaison. I even take out the garbage.

I agree. It’s very difficult to get an ID position if all you can do is sketch. Most IDers are surpassing many ME as far as fluency with current CAD programs. This trend has made it hard for ID to find work without knowing a CAD or rapid viz application. It also makes it hard, because many MEs are finding there ways into what would normally be ID positions. Many employers just gete confused and think they just need an ME. This is when the push for ID in the work force is comprimised much like the graphic designer boom of the 90s. In the 90s many grpahic designers were being punked by marketing folks who got a hold of photoshop. Saturation caused confusion with job summaries.

In the end, true talent always shines through. As IDs we may need to expand our reach into different positions or job descriptions, but we still need to stay true to the importance of ID and innovation. So my advice, learn what you can as it will make you a better asset, but continue to sketch and draw as talent will eventually surface and set you apart.

Easy way to explain the difference between ID and ME (at least it has worked for me):

ID’s main focus is on the consumer (what do they want and need)
ME’s main focus is on the factory (what is cheapest and fastest)

When you make the two have an equal voice you get good products for the consumer and plant which equals good business.

When they are not equal, in either direction then you end up with a one sided product. That is not good for business.

Both groups have learned about the other for communication reasons but neither can replace the other totally.

I have a BFA/MFA & MBA. My career tenure began in ID. The cross-functional experience the ID role allowed me then led to progressive management position’s in engineering, operations, and general management. I feel my career has been successful in transitioning to other functional area’s with a foundation in ID. Now, I would like to transition back into ID, but find that my experience has not been welcomed by ID organization…interesting.

Hmmm… that does not bode well for me.


I have a friend who has similar credentials, except with more human factors experience in addition to the MBA. No ID degree. He’s been working on contract basis with a well-known national firm doing user research, sort of planning product strategy, and wanting to do more work in defining business plans for clients, in addition to their products and features. Just one angle.