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.

It does seem like it at Core, and I don’t know why. In every position I have been in I have had to be either an integral part or fully in charge of the product development process. When i talk to students and young professionals I tell them to learn all about the whole product development process. Otherwise your designs are at the mercy of other peoples interpretations.

For me it about the final product on the shelf, not just making pretty pictures.

But i am sure there will be contrasting opinions.

Agreed, it is all about making the best possible end result, not the prettiest sketch OR CAD model.

In my case, we are responsible for defining what the product could/should be, ideating, doing the pretty renderings, pitching it to divisional Presidents and VP’s, then doing the production documentation, redlining production engineers’ work, resolving production issues, working with brand marketing to help tell story to consumer… whatever it takes.

but do you get down to developing how parts may integrate, such as part lines, nice snap details, etc…

in your case yo what is the production engineers role?

Yes, down to specing the thickness of the internal foams and designing the shapes and materials in the linings

Fit issues, costing, ensuring all of the hundred or so components in each half pair are produced and assembled correctly to the designer’s spec, making sure the products can meet out internal testing standards, and so on. Usually there is a pattern engineer, tooling engineer, material specialist or designer, and development coordinater on every project. The entire team follows the project until completion as the design evolves to production.

i think it depends more on the size and type of company than N.America Vs other places. I interned at a big company and the designers there went from sketch to presentations to marketing all the way to toolable cad. in another place (where im working now actually) which is also a huge company we go up to alias models and then pass off to engineering. at that point we wave goodbye and start with something else.

depending on the structure and resources every company is different.

was having trouble deciding which thread to post in. now it’s easy:

i agree w DFLUX.

ID is screwed in US go back to aussie.

Once again UFO needs a public spanking.

Forgot to take your meds today, UFO :slight_smile:

Today, I am finishing a report on why a product I designed is coming apart unintentionally in the field. I designed the system it is based on, but new (thicker) components have been introduced by the procurement manager which are affecting the fit.

I also have to work the ROI on a new type of printing process, including the cost of installation and building upgrades.

Later this week I will work on a new 3D model for a product that will be injection molded out of the cheapest polycarbonate. I have to worry about features smaller than .010" with .002" manufacturing tolerances.

Sometime over the next 3 weeks, I have strategic meetings with the patent attorney over the jurisdictions in which we want protection for our newest designs.

On the back burner is a project for marketing that includes strategies for product positioning and packaging design.

It is never the same, and never boring… but it is not the stuff I would rather be doing.


my doctor said it’s ok :sunglasses:

Being involved in the entire product development process certainly has its advantages and disadvantages. I started out doing just conceptual ideation, with no thought of manufacturing when I entered the field. “Blue skying” was great, but it frustrated the hell out of the other disciplines in the development chain.

I changed into a fairly technical job where the design was as much problem solving, innovation, engineering, and manufacturng as it was the ideation and form end of the process. I became a “womb-to tomb” designer as the owner called me. I did the whole bit; ideation, concept justification prototyping, detail design, component design, tooling development, first article approvals, UL and othe regulatory listing, sourcing qualifications, intergration into manufacturing, market materials…you get the idea.

I’ve been through the whole thing and the good thing is… I know how to do it all. Most is really challenging, alot is really (really) boring, but it kicks butt seeing your product used all over the world, and knowing you really can really say you designed it. All of it.

The down side is… the ideation, sketching, and concept work becomes such a small part of the job. The bulk of the time is bringing the work to market. And you don’t get to develop as many products as you would like, because you spend so much time developing the concepts.

However, the experience you gain from doing all the facets makes you a valuable asset and gives you the ability to freelance almost any part of the process.

Plus, you can make a decent living doing it!

Overall, I’m really glad that I’m not just on the front end. The whole of the process is what I consider true design, though I know it’s not for everyone, and not everyone can be effective doing all aspects of the development process.

I am the only in-house designer at the company I work for, and consequently, wear a lot of hats. Unfortunately, we do not do a lot of ideation or refinement because of time constraints, but that is where it starts. I do concept sketches, CAD, communicate with manufacturers on a limited basis (other people get paid to do that exclusively), review prototypes and final production, work with engineering and product development teams, and even do some showroom construction and manual labor at market when needed. I end up ‘touching’ the furniture from beginning to end, which I like (slight control freak :wink: ) but it also allows me to make sure things are carried out as intended, something the company has not been able to do reliably in the past.

Yes, great experience and the tons of cheap greedy shitty firms out there must love suckers like you “passionate” about doing it all.

There is another ancient profession that also strives hard to please everyone all the time. But it knows no economic downturns and usually brings in way more dough than i.d.

I would change “creating all” to “to help define all user-facing elements.”

that’s a good way of putting it, cg.

If the sonsumer can percieve, we should consider it, from the aesthetic, to the sound the wirr a hard drive makes, to a user interface, to the lining of a shoe.

Guest wrote:

Yes, great experience and the tons of cheap greedy shitty firms out there must love suckers like you “passionate” about doing it all.

There is another ancient profession that also strives hard to please everyone all the time. But it knows no economic downturns and usually brings in way more dough than i.d.

Is this a well grounded observation from which you are qualified to state, or just an off handed crass comment based on jealously?

Seriously, you make diversity of skills sound as though it were evil. What are you in this business for? Or are you even in the business? If a company can hire someone with expertise that covers a broad range of skills, isn’t that a prudent economic decision?

I’ve performed the role of industrial designer, engineer, manufacturing liason, marketing researcher, source inspector and qualifier, and a host of other functions. Most have been in a corporate environment with millions (now billions) in sales- not as you say, cheap greedy shitty firms.

I’ve been an owner in my company, have been part of its strategic growth and sale, and have been quite well compensated for this effort. My training is that of a designer, B.S. in Design (product), yet I have become so much more because of the “role” I played-that of learning the entire process instead of being just a facet of the process.

If taking advantage of my strengths makes me comparable to the oldest profession, so be it. I am proud of my accomplishments and the products I’ve developed. I’ve been doing it for decades, will continue to do it with the same “passion” as in the past, and can truly say its been very fulfilling.

Too bad you can’t get the same joy from your work. [/quote]

Acala - I am with you on this one. I have had the same type of experience at the same sizes of companys.