We hear the term “industrial design” used a lot, especially when referring to products from Apple. But what does the term mean, and how is “industrial design” different than just “design”? Here’s the answer.
Products that are industrially designed are conceived with several requirements in mind. First, it must be suited towards mass production, meaning that it has to be simple enough so that thousands or millions of identical copies can be produced. A landscape architect trying to design a stone waterfall for a client’s pool is not industrial design because it’s not intended to be mass produced (it’s application-specific). Second, products that are industrially designed have a big focus on ergonomics and usability–how the product is held, used, and operated by humans is of the utmost importance. A bridge engineer trying to design a sturdier suspension bridge is not exercising industrial design, because the bridge is intended to carry cars across a body of water; there is no human interaction with the bridge.
Industrial engineers are essentially conceptual engineers that focus on optimizing the function of a product while ensuring that the item appeals to the psychology of the user in terms of desire, attractiveness, and so on. There are many examples of industrially designed products.
Recent examples include the Apple iPod and iPhone. Others cite the Coca-Cola classic glass bottle and the KitchenAid 5qt mixer as industrially designed products. These products are attractive while being highly functional, and are mass-produced.