What does industrial design mean to society?

I am currently writing a paper to accompany my program entrance portfolio on what industrial design means to society. As a sophomore student my perspective on this subject is only 2 years young, so I am looking for any ideas anyone would like to offer to spark my thinking.

I think design aims to help society, although there are plenty of pessimists who would say it tried to hurt it. Industrial design, unlike many other design fields, has done a great job framing our profession in terms of problem solving. And when faced with the right problems (good product definition), we have the ability to do help lots of people, make someone lots of money, or ideally both.

Shameless plug coming, but check out the side project we’re doing at Kaleidoscope. The goal is to create concepts that get people thinking about how to make our world a little bit better.


Friendly suggestion: you might get more/better responses if you asked a more specific question.

It’s a young profession.
Start by studying the context of it’s origin.

I think there are a few ways to look at the question, and I may have had enough beers after a huge presentation to take a stab at my opinion.

  1. What do we think we mean to society?
    I think we are at our best when we study the way people live and create products that help them do that, from medical devices that are easier for technicians to use and less intimidating to people, to cars that do more than just move people from point A to point B.

  2. What does society think we mean to them?
    Honestly, probably very little. Most people can put together (with a little explanation) what a shoe designer, toy, or car designer does, but most of them never think twice about that ballpoint pen in their hand, their computer, their watch, their alarm clock or anything else around them. It’s not that they think we are not important, its that they don’t think about us at all. We are removed from their day to day life, unlike the blacksmith and other craftsmen people used to go to for their products.

  3. What do other functions like marketing and engineering think we mean to society?
    Some of them get it, some of them do not. The good ones know we help strategize business opportunities into market realities, and help figure out the manufacturing and commercialization process. The ones who are not so good think we draw pretty pictures, put candy wrappers over things, and make their jobs harder.

Hope that helps a bit.

An interesting angle is what Industrial Design was to a society then, and what it is to society now. In other words perhaps what went wrong with industrial design today, and how we can evolve.

Some digging and history required, but also as its an entrance paper, do also include what industrial design means to you as well. Good Luck!

Industrial Design makes life easy and beautiful to live in :smiley:

in my own terms industrial design is the way human functions in all aspects of life without materials we will design our own way of making life easier…

I think that industrial design is a very misunderstood profession.
I still have to explain to my family when they ask what I do for a living that industrial design isn’t the design of machinery but of objects at large. Even in my job (I work mostly with engineers)I have to explain that design isn’t about making things pretty, but that there is some brains and ergonomics and emotions mixed into it.
Trust me, I’m the first person to say that design is essential in companies and that it can transform a product, but for the general public, design means snob people with big glasses creating cute but overpriced stuff.
There’s still some work to do to inform people about ID butin a way I also like that it’s somewhat of an invisible profession. A great product shouldn’t shout “design”; if it’s well done and refined, it should be used effortlessly, with pleasure and just feel natural. Unpretentious design might not bring as much awareness but I know that’s what I’m aiming for… just my 2 cents