What Computer Skills (gral.) Do Practitioners Require?


I am in the process offinishing a thesis I’ve been working on for a while, and I’ve been
asked to try to get the insight of practicing Industrial or Product Designers on the following:

What computer skills do you use in your professional practice?

If you could spare a couple of minutes to provide your input I’d really appreciate it. Please feel free to be as specific as possible (i.e., NURBS modelling? but also not just related to CAD; do you use computer programming? project management tools?).

(Ifyou would like to read the abstract ofthe thesis, feel free to check this link: 2018-07_Abstract_01.pdf - Google Drive)

Thanks a lot!!!

ID is not just for mass produced products, most designers are probably not working on things that are mass produced actually.

I presume English isn’t your first language, but there are a fair amount of awkward sentences and spelling mistakes in your abstract.

I’m not sure what basis you have for advocating polygonal modelling for ID.

Typical CAD software used in industry is chosen specifically to interface with engineering and manufacturing, and that means solid models, and for more organic geometry it means surfaces that are then probably turned into solid models to represent correct design intent.

Solid modelling allows section views with interior detail, engineering analysis, conversion to file formats for laser cutting, machining, 3D printing etc.

Polygonal modelling is typically only found in animation and game design asset production.
The CAD systems used for ID are much more precise in dimensions than Blender or Maya produced polygonal models…

Choice of CAD doesn’t specifically matter much for Designers because typically as long as you can communicate visually then anything will do. But through the need to interface with engineering and simulation and manufacturing, the industry has settled on similar tools such as solidworks.

The only real departure is with automotive and aeronautical surface designers who might use something like Alias or ICEM for a more surface-specific workflow.

Pen and paper
Autodesk Sketchbook
Autodesk Fusion 360

It will obviously be different for everyone posting here, but for me the software list is:

Sketchbook Pro
After Effects

Also, Jarjones, I would respectfully have to disagree with your statement that “most designers are probably not working on things that are mass produced”. ID by definition is “… a process of design applied to products that are to be manufactured through techniques of mass production”. In my personal experience I don’t know any ID folks who aren’t designing for mass production.

Hi SoOnAndSoForth, what I meant was there are only so many places at household companies that make millions of one item a year, and that by proportion, there are more people making things that never see a 100,000+ unit production run.

In the same sense there are 1000 small companies making components for every OEM that makes the final product, that the everyday person buys in a store.

This is going a bit off topic. The original poster asked what software industrial designers often use… I think that question is a minor one compared to what mental skills it takes to be an industrial designer, but here we are in the software section with an appropriate and simple question.

Whether or not people are designing shavers for Bruan or coffee tables to sell on Etsy really wasn’t the point of the question as I read it… however I didn’t click on the link so maybe I’m off :slight_smile:

Typically Solidworks and keyshot on the modelling side, and PS, AI and sketchbook on the creative side. I’d expect anyone who can use any of these to be comfortable in Microsoft office also :laughing:

not necessarily. A lot of people have no idea how to put a presentation together, set up a clean document, or run some basic numerical formulas.

Really? As in designers/engineers who aren’t proficient in word and excel? I would have thought that those are staple required skills for mostly anyone who needs to use a computer as part of their job.

Well the first thing to tackle is to get designers from behind their desks and actually do more design, as a lived process.
Especially US education focuses far too much on computer skills.
It is better to find out through ‘embodied’ (how could it not be) practice what kind of designer you are and subsequently choosing the tools you need rather than top-down subverting people into one-of-a-same-kind designers.
Then again, a good basis is necessary, which is for example why I had to learn Java.

As for 3D modeling, Industrial Designers for mass-production largely need surfacing tools such as Solidworks, Catia and Rhino.
But a new type of product designer is emerging that develops amidst a web of data-driven processes. Where emerging technologies such as AI and 3D printing come into play, the designer is aided by parametric mesh modeling tools as well. There needs to be a balance between the two, where good surfacing tools are part of a data-driven parametric process resulting in either a nurbs or polygonal format.

A good approach, planning-wise, for an educational design system is to offer a 25% standard basis, then 25% chosen modules/assignments, 40% time spent on projects, and the remainder spent on workshops and other activities to introduce and develop specific skill and knowledge areas.

yes, that is why I wrote it :slight_smile:

Agreed, though I’ve seen some programs that don’t teach them enough, the spectrum of curriculums is really broad… the good thing is that in 5 years, it will all be different :slight_smile: … I think one of the most important lessons to learn is that you are always a student, even 20 years after you graduate.


I agree. My course had a reasonably broad spectrum of courses, although computer skills certainly had a heavier focus than, for example, sketching. I graduated just under 5 years ago, and between then and now I think that ID courses have definitely transitioned to include more interface and system based learning.

One downside of the way that some universities teach, and something I see reasonably often in a student portfolio, is an education that ticks all of the boxes for technical skills, i.e. here’s a sketch, here’s a CAD model and here’s the rendering, but doesn’t show any exploration of ideas or explanation they arrived at the final design. It’s like they were given a brief, came up with 2 or 3 ideas that sort of worked and then jumped right onto their PC to model and render a shiny picture (we had an intern who did this repeatedly earlier this year), and they will pass because it clears the global criteria set by the university (20% for ideation, 20% for CAD, 20% for presentation etc.), whether the actual design is good or not.

When you have to be accountable to management at university which is now more like a business than anything else it is difficult to get away from this. If a student complains about a low grade, even if you can completely elaborate why it is a “bad design” in a way which another designer could appreciate then the manager which you are explaining it to might not accept it as valid. To avoid being accused of bias or not being able to defend what can be argued by non-designers as subjective is avoided at all cost by lecturers because of this. One of the many reasons design education has got into a rut.

I agree, and I do know that it is difficult when the design teachers have to answer to higher up non teachers. However I do think that there is a difference between the way projects are graded, and what skills are being emphasised as more important.

They are definitely there, a lot of them! In Europe the basic office skills are taught in high school, but not everyone is paying attention and later in life some never learn to properly use these. So many opportunities arise once you learn to do math and even code in Excel. You can even parametrically drive 3D models from excel sheets, quite an eye opener. Yet I find this a high school thing, people would have to catch up themselves instead of a university dedicating time to teaching basic software.

Exactly, it is the pitfall of becoming a good design student vs. a good designer. 80% of the times a designer steps to CAD in reality, the design will not be as successful if the process had been three times as long (sometimes dreadfully so, but necessary :slight_smile: ) For example, we create a ravishing design but it does not appeal to the target audience(s), so we need to revise and revise before stepping to CAD. Understanding the market is key before being able to even start designing for it.

More and more I come across projects that require advanced mesh modeling skills.
A few weeks ago I wrote an in-depth article for Formlabs on the latest Mesh repair tools: