what is the scope of Industrial Design

I am considering an ID study, this looks very interesting to me, but I admit I am not sure I fully understand the scope of this field. There are 2 points I would love to hear your opinion about.

  1. where is the line between design and engineering ? I see a lot of great concept projects - but the concepts are in multiple levels. As far as I can see, a given project has some functional concepts, and then there are visual, or design concepts.
    I am interested in both, but it seems to me like they are completely different things, that require different skill sets. for instance here
    there are projects that contain some features that seem to me to be engineering oriented, for instance, how the machine
    should be constructed functionally - settings of wheels, drive trains, chassis, electronic systems, setting of how the user is positioned and how he interacts with the machine, etc.
    Is this something an industrial designer get to work on, or is it something more typically done by engineers in the team ?
    how the tasks are divided between these 2 roles is a bit confusing to me.

  2. how much place is there for innovation in the work of industrial designers ? I am familiar with the software industry, where typically people are trained to solve very complex problems, but from my experience, most of the daily job programmers do is equivalent to a job on a factory pipeline - mostly repetitive and boring tasks. Is it similar with
    ID, or do designers actually get to do some creative job, in the ‘real world’ ?

Thanks a lot for your advice

All of this depends on the role of the individual and the company.

Designers are the ones who need to bridge the gap between the art and the engineering. There are some ID guys who will bring products to market without any engineering team. But typically on large and complex projects the designers and engineers work collaboratively. Where do the components need to go, how are the mechanisms going to work, what are the requirements. The designer can lay a groundwork for this, or it can come from the engineers, it depends on the project. Once the groundwork is laid the designers will usually translate that all into CAD that then goes to a mechanical engineer who will start to detail the parts, make them feasible for manufacturing, add in all the screws and structure to make the part work, and that is what will go out for tooling.

There is tons of room for innovation in the work of industrial designers, but it again depends on the person, the industry, and the product. Ultimately the amount of responsibility will be left to what the designer can handle.

  1. There is no hard and fast line between design and engineering. But you seem to be missing the entire scope. Designers and engineers, along with sales, marketing, purchasing, manufacturing, accounting, logistics, regulatory and probably other areas I have left out, are all apart of the new product development process. While I have been formally trained in design, I have worn hats in every area of the process. Choosing one, design/engineering/accounting/whatever, to study should only give you a launching point. Your career will be what you make of it, don’t limit yourself.

  2. Depends. Once on Oprah, she did a show on dream jobs. She had a young woman on in her first year as a designer at Ford (I think, but put in any car manufacturer). She showed a ton of sketches of steering wheels and was quite proud that one of them was going to be used. You know she sketched a circle in a thousand different ways that year.

So, she did get to come up with a new circle every time, but she was stuck designing circles.

Creative? Sure. Innovative? Not until the end by my definition.

And if you are wondering what my definition of innovation is - Anything different that has impact.

What you’re going to end up doing is all dependent on the kind of person you are. And that will unfold naturally once you just follow your natural inclinations. Simply start working, keep looking around, and you’ll end up where you’ll want to end up. There is room for almost everything in this world these days.

In my experience there are purely designer type of people, involved in the front end, thinking out the innovation and setting up the concepts. There are pure engineers who like to tackle technical challenges. Then there is the design engineer who can handle both, but generally is not as good in any of them. In small firms you may find the last type of person more, in larger companies they will have a separate department for the creative process and one to get it to the factories. This division is often a bit too large in my experience, better concepts come when immediately from the start the technical knowledge is also taken into account. For a great introductory reference about the combination of design and engineering, I would recommend the not so well known book ‘Invention and Evolution; Design in Nature and Engineering’ by M.J. French.

There is usually a lot of room for creativity, but if you’re experienced enough you’ll come to see that even a creative process becomes more like a procedure, kind of basically the same thing every time, the same areas of the brain doing their thing. The only mysterious part there is where the initial inception of the idea comes from :slight_smile: But after it becomes procedural, you may find out there’s a depth that comes with repetition, so in the end the loss of ‘newness’ is just something to accept. You can of course create new challenges for yourself anytime you like.

As mentioned by the others, ID and engineering tend to overlap when it comes to product development (which it sounds like you’re interested in). But both ID and engineering have their own spectrum that reach to opposite ends. For example ID can encompass systems, experience design, or concept art for movies and video games. Engineering can encompass stress analysis, performance tests, and evaluation.

But to reiterate what the others said, ultimately it’s up to you. It’s possible to find companies where the designers lead innovation and others where engineers lead. Ideally, the relationship is shared and symbiotic.

(In 12% seriousness, and totally over-simplified) another way to look at it:
Engineering: math
ID: art

Good question though! Happy to hear other’s thoughts on this, it really is a gray area.