Industrial design vs product design: differences and skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Product design and industrial design both involve designing, creating and introducing products to the market. Product design is part of the industrial design process. Learning the difference between the two can allow you to understand the different roles they play and which career to pursue. In this article, we discuss the difference between industrial design vs product design, define what they are and outline the skills both careers require.

What is industrial design vs product design?

It's important to understand the definition of each profession to compare industrial design vs product design. The definitions are as follows:

Industrial design

Industrial design is a strategic problem-solving process that involves the design and mass production of various products, devices and objects. It's a process that may provide a better quality of life for consumers through product innovation. Using creativity to resolve challenges consumers encounter can improve a product, service or experience. Industrial design may involve taking an existing product and enhancing its functionality and aesthetics. An industrial designer's duties and responsibilities include:

  • improving the functionality, ease of use and marketability of a product

  • creating aesthetically pleasing product designs

  • participating in research and preparing project plans

  • collecting and analysing user feedback to provide a better user experience

  • performing usability tests

  • gathering all requirements to provide front-end strategies

  • selecting appropriate colours, materials and finishing for products

  • collaborating with engineers and manufacturers to ensure product compatibility

Related: Product design vs UX design: differences and similarities

Product design

Product design involves imagining, designing and creating a product that meets the user's need or a specific market need. It involves studying a market, identifying a market need and creating a product to satisfy it. Product design may be important for a business, as it allows for creating unique products. A product designer's responsibilities include:

  • defining product specifications

  • creating product design concepts and sketches

  • researching potential market needs

  • working with developers and designers to create a product

  • testing and prototyping products

  • creating style patterns

  • keeping updated on industry trends and market conditions

  • modifying prototypes and existing products to meet consumer needs

Related: What is project design? (With elements, steps and tips)

What are the differences between industrial and product design?

The following explains the differences between industrial and product design:

Process

Product design involves studying and analysing a market to discover a unique market need and creating a product to satisfy this need. In contrast, industrial design takes an existing product and develops ways to make it more attractive to the consumer. Product design begins from scratch, whereby a product designer develops and implements an idea. This differs from industrial design, which involves improving an existing product.

Purpose

Product designers aim to satisfy consumers' needs regardless of the product's appearance or inherent elements. In contrast, industrial designers aim to create a product that can be competitive and suitable for mass production.

For example, the primary aim of building a chair is to enable a consumer to sit down. Industrial design may involve making rocking chairs or couches to create an aesthetically pleasing product that satisfies the consumer's desire to sit down and ensures a comfortable experience for the consumer.

Technical knowledge

Industrial designers may require more technical knowledge of engineering and marketing than product designers. This knowledge may enable an industrial designer to develop a competitive product in terms of price and user experience. As the process aims for mass production, marketing knowledge is important to convince consumers to choose their product over similar products. A product designer may not require these technical skills.

Related: Technical skills: definitions and examples

Skills that industrial designers and product designers use

Designing and bringing a new product to the market requires diverse skills. These skills can include:

Web software and graphic design

Consider using graphic design skills to realise concepts and determine the practicality of a product. This involves designers using web software to create a visual representation of a potential product design. Graphic design can save on cost and time compared with creating the final product and using that to determine practicality. You can enrol at a university or other training institutes to learn how to use graphic design software. You can also improve your graphic design skills by looking for short training courses and earning certifications.

Related: How to learn graphic design with tips for success

Marketing skills

Marketing skills can be beneficial to ensure consumers in a target market accept a product. Different marketing strategies can convince consumers to purchase the product. Consider online marketing strategies, such as social media campaigns and hashtags. You can improve your marketing skills by seeking further training online or through an institution.

Related: Marketing executive: roles, responsibilities and skills

Research skills

Consider researching consumer demands to determine and develop a product to satisfy these demands. Research skills can also help you in following market trends and developing new products to counter those that competitors market. You can improve your research skills by learning how to use advanced online search techniques.

Related: Research skills: definition and examples

Customer service and communication skills

Communication skills allow you to present and sell products and ideas to consumers. These skills can enable you to convince a customer why a product may be the best in the market. Customer service can provide consumers with a positive experience, motivating them to make further purchases and recommend the product to others. You can improve your communication skills by participating in conversation, paying attention to body language, making eye contact and speaking calmly and openly.

Related: 6 fun communication games to improve communication skills

Problem-solving skills

Design involves providing a solution to a challenge that consumers encounter. Having problem-solving skills may allow you to develop an appropriate solution creatively. It may also allow you to adjust your plans and adapt to changing circumstances, providing a favourable outcome. You can improve your problem-solving skills by acquiring more technical knowledge in your field, seeking opportunities to resolve issues and observing how others do it.

Related: Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

Time management skills

Time management allows you to structure your work in a way that allows you to achieve your goals. The design process may be time-sensitive to both roles. Good time management skills allow you to accomplish tasks quickly and avoid rushing. Time management skills include organisation, prioritisation and goal setting. You can improve your time management skills by managing your calendar and setting short- and long-term goals.

Related: Time management skills: definition, examples and tips for improvement

3D modelling skills

3D modelling uses simulated software to create design ideas for a product. It involves computer-aided design (CAD) to visualise ideas and determine improvements to create a prototype. Using these models can save on cost and time. Knowing how to use CAD may be more relevant to industrial design than product design. You may train in using computers or find short courses on 3D modelling to improve your skills.

Related: Best software for architecture design: seven programs to try

Sketching

Sketching allows designers to draft rough designs and conceptualise ideas. It may be quicker than graphic design technology and enable designers to visualise their ideas before conceptualising them. Sketching is also inexpensive compared with 3D models or graphic design software. To improve your sketching skills, consider taking a drawing course.

Creativity and innovation

Being creative as a designer is inherent. Consider developing these skills to help you produce fresh ideas and new designs. This may be important, as clients may often want something unique. You can also consider making and keeping notes to store ideas and do constant research to provide many sources of inspiration.

Flexibility

Working as a designer may not mean having a typical eight to five schedule from Monday to Friday. Some situations may require you to work outside the usual hours to meet deadlines and achieve team goals. Depending on the job, you may sometimes have to travel and adjust to different time zones. Consider developing flexibility in your work to help you easily adapt to work schedules and environment changes for maximum productivity.

Attention to detail

A slight problem that goes unnoticed may lead to costly delays and production issues that may setback the design process. Attention to detail skills may allow you to highlight potential flaws in the production process and keep the team on track. Consider having a good understanding of the mechanical and design process in production to allow you to provide better supervision of the production process.

Emotional intelligence

Designers can use emotional intelligence to design personalised products for the consumers. This may include using user engagement features, such as voice recognition. Creating such products may provide consumers with a better user experience.

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