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What is Industrial Design?
The study of industrial design involves the design, creation, and development of concepts and technical specifications to make the value, appearance, and functionality of a system or product as efficient as possible. An industrial designer will collect data through observation, analysis, surveys, and customer feedback via cross-collaboration meeting with management, engineering, manufacturing, and marketing teams. The net result of the data collection and meetings will yield a series of technical specifications, drawings, 3D renderings, and or models to envelope requisite criteria.
Given the technical and creative nature of the job, an industrial designer will need to be analytical and data-driven while being creative and inquisitive to solve complex issues. Industrial designers are uniquely trained to:
- Blend art and science to solve thorny business issues
- Integrate visual, tactile, and spatial senses into production
- Understand the interplay between product convenience and aesthetics with safety regulations and costs
- Create designs and processes that speak to human needs, interests, and experiences
- Meld sociology, psychology, and physiology into a design given known demographic factors
- Balance technical solutions with design, manufacturing, quality control, marketing, communication systems, and regulatory constraints
Top Industrial Design Degrees
Several degree types exist within industrial design that are worth investigating further. The programs range from undergraduate certificate programs up through a graduate degree in the field of study. To help provide prospective students with additional information on each program type, we have assembled an overview of each type of degree program with a simple way to collect information from accredited colleges and universities.
Certificate Programs in Industrial Design
A certificate program in industrial design is not a ubiquitous program but has been found to be an effective tool to help prepare students for a variety of careers. The certificate program can be a 1-3 year program depending on the core curriculum of the program and courses involved. Certificate programs in industrial design are concentrated, career-focused academic tools used by students across the country to advance skills in the field, learn technical skills in design coupled with design skills and fundamental skills necessary to succeed in a variety of sectors across the business spectrum.
Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design
A bachelor’s degree in industrial design can be conferred as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from most colleges. The bachelor’s degree is a 4-year program of full-time matriculation with part-time students taking longer to complete as a function of pace, schedule, and course load. Both the BFA and BA programs blend general education courses like communications, philosophy, sociology, history, and math with core curriculum.
Core classes found in many bachelor degree programs in industrial engineering include courses such as: design problem solving, computer drafting, sketch modeling, model making, design drawing, development of form, digital development, materials & processes, color fundamentals, CAD drawing, product design, digital modeling, product drawing, toy design, product design, human-centered design, physics for artists, furniture design, fabric & fiber technology, and automotive design.
Master Degree in Industrial Design
The master’s degree in industrial design is a graduate-level degree track that can be conferred as a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), or Master in Industrial Design (MID). Master’s degree programs will take 2-3 years to complete of full-time matriculation and longer for part-time students. Classes will vary from program to program but will emphasize creativity, innovation, and experimentation via large and small projects. Classes in a master’s degree program in industrial engineering will typically include upper-level courses in: drawing, prototyping, digital ideation, modeling, rendering, business design, furniture design, design methodology, tabletop design, design strategies, exhibit design, design research, and sustainability. Graduate students will begin their thesis project in the last 2-3 semesters of the program under the guidance of an advisor or department chair to substantially contribute to the field of study.
Educational Requirements for Industrial Designers
Individuals in this field will typically pursue a bachelor's degree at minimum in order to be considered for employment. Programs are available at many universities as well as specialized art colleges and institutions. Individuals will learn various design principles alongside machining, mechanical engineering and other relevant fields. As such a program requires a cross section of science and art, individuals should be prepared for a high amount of mathematics combined with art principles in order to form a truly unique discipline.
A curriculum may include:
- Design Philosophy
- Form and Function
- Aesthetics and Integration
Online Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities for Industrial Designers
Individuals in this field will seek employment with product manufacturers, assisting in prototype development, design, packaging, and even marketing as part of their overall duties. Individuals in this field will work alongside engineers to provide aesthetically pleasing design to functional machines, possibly even assisting in better performance through design innovation. Individuals may work in house, freelance, or as part of a firm, and will offer varying services based on education and experience.
Where Can an Industrial Designer Work?
An industrial designer can work in a variety of industries can include the following sectors of the market: automotive, tabletop, engineering, apparel, footwear, furniture, lighting, video, medical equipment, technology, packaging, surface design, manufacturing, research and development, visual communications, and architecture.
Job Growth & Career Outlook in Industrial Design
Job growth for industrial designers is estimated to grow by 10% over the coming decade which is well above the national average. Growth will be driven by innovation and demand coming from the manufacturing and technology sectors. As a result positions will be open, new job will be available, but the area will not grow as rapidly due to limited opportunities from certain sectors. The average salary for an industrial designer is $67,970 annually, with increases in pay based on experience, success, education and location. The top 10% average $105,690 a year in compensation and the bottom ten percent average just over thirty-seven thousand dollars a year on average.
Largest Employers of Industrial Designers
- Specialized Design Firms
- Architectural and Engineering Companies
- Management Organizations
- Home Furnishing Companies
Top Paying States for Industrial Designers
- New Jersey $88,170
- Massachusetts $84,100
- South Carolina $80,240
- Nevada $78,590
- Michigan $78,300
Individuals interested in industrial design may also be interested in graphic design, marketing, industrial engineering, industrial mechanics, industrial technology, or interior design. The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) along with World Design Organization (WDO) can help provide credibility and knowledge to designers within this field of study. Members receive additional resources and benefits that cannot be found through other organizations.