Say Hello to Industrial Design: Forging Artistry with Engineering

by Michael Paloian, President, Integrated Design Systems

Individuals in the industry, including rotational molders, are familiar with engineers and product designers, but many are unaware of industrial designers. This is important, but sometimes misunderstood or unknown segment, of the design community. Even among those in the profession its purpose and definition are debated.

Many think of industrial designers as stylists who create beautiful products that usually cannot be manufactured. Others employ industrial designers to create exotic concepts or conduct human factors studies for products. Although these perceptions are not totally incorrect, industrial designers are responsible for much more than styling and concept development. As a matter of fact, industrial designers have contributed to the successful design of thousands of products that have become icons in our cultures and taken for granted in our daily lives.

A Quick History of Industrial Design

The industrial design profession actually got its start at the beginning of the 20th century. But it really became recognized as a profession in the 1930s, with such pioneering legends as Raymond Lowey, Walter Darwin Teague, Henry Dreyfuss, and Norman Bel Geddes.

This era was also the time of the Great Depression. It was a time when aviation and automobiles influenced styling with the term “streamlined.” It was a time when the industry was trying to find new ways of selling products and to offer an opportunity for hope. The time was perfect for visionaries such as those mentioned to forge artistry with engineering, creating a new field known today as industrial design.

Since its early history, industrial design has continually evolved. It has transformed from a profession deeply embedded in fashion to an expanded influence that includes human factors, ecology, cultural identity, and product branding. Today, industrial designers are responsible for designing products ranging from disposable packaging to sneakers to Magnetic Resonance Imaging devices.

Industrial Designers are Unique in Solving Problems

Unlike engineers, who are typically focused on functional requirements, industrial designers assess the entire product including the user, its environment, and its overall image. Engineers typically solve problems in a systematic step-by-step progression versus industrial designers who typically try to eliminate the source of problems by thinking “outside the box.” Industrial designers are usually assigned the responsibility of defining all the factors affecting the product’s physical embodiment, including its overall product appearance, materials, manufacturing process, function, and use.

Industrial designers are typically at the hub of a product development team. Their primary responsibility is to synergistically integrate all the disciplines within a company involved in product design.



Michael PaloianMichael Paloian, President, Integrated Design Systems, Inc.

Mike Paloian, an authority in industrial design, is an inventor, lecturer and educator. Integrated Design Systems Inc. (IDS), is an award-winning industrial design firm with practical expertise in medical, analytical and testing, and plastic display and plastic product design. Mr. Paloian is a faculty member, Plastics Engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell, and a Contributing Design Editor for industry publications.