What Does an Industrial Designer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Derek Abella © The Balance 2019 

An industrial designer creates manufactured products such as cars, boats, housewares, computer hardware, sports equipment, consumer electronics, toys, theme park attractions, and medical devices.

They combine art, business, and engineering knowledge to develop concepts for these manufactured items and then perform research to learn how people will use them, how the manufacturer will market them, and what materials will make these products most functional.

Industrial designers typically specialize in a particular category such as automotive, marine, toys, or medical devices. Instead of going by the generic job title, they may be referred to by one related to their specialty.

For example, an industrial designer who works with boats may be called a marine designer, one who creates toys may go by the title toy designer, and someone who develops medical devices is often referred to as a medical devices designer. Other job titles for this occupation include product designer, design engineer, product development engineer, and product engineer.

Industrial Designer Duties & Responsibilities

The responsibilities of industrial designers require them to spend their days performing many duties and tasks, such as the following:

  • Continuously coming up with new product designs
  • Developing and iterating designs through sketches, prototypes, renderings and communicating with manufacturers
  • Regularly presenting design work to various decision-makers
  • Developing products from concept to factory production while keeping within budgets and timelines
  • Identifying suitable manufacturing partners, sourcing components, and negotiating costs
  • Advocating for new products through the entire design and production process from early stage concept to creation of samples and mass production
  • Collaborating with marketing teams during on-site photo shoots, preparing for photo shoots and ensuring execution of all key product shots

Industrial Designer Salary

An industrial designer's salary varies based on the area of expertise, level of experience, education, certifications, and other factors.

  • Median Annual Salary: $66,590 ($32.01 /hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $108,040 ($51.94/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $38,630 ($18.57/hour)

Education, Training & Certification

Industrial designer jobs require a relevant college degree and additional software knowledge. The educational requirements for this field are quite specific.

  • Education: Most employers prefer entry-level job candidates who have a bachelor's degree in industrial design. Some also hire people with degrees in architecture or engineering.
  • Coursework specifics: Take classes that will allow you to develop skills in graphic design, sketching, CADD (computer-aided design and drafting), and 3D modeling. Your coursework should also include marketing, manufacturing methods, and industrial materials and processes.
  • Software expertise: Become proficient in using software such as Adobe Suite and Microsoft Office, as well as industry-specific programs like SolidWorks.

Industrial Designer Skills & Competencies

Particular soft skills, abilities with which you were born or acquired through life experiences, will allow you to succeed at work:

  • Creativity: Innovation is key to success in this field. You need the ability to come up with a steady stream of new ideas.
  • Artistic Ability: Industrial designers use drawings to show their ideas. You must be able to produce sketches to share with your team and present to your superiors and clients.
  • Verbal Communication: You will also have to discuss your concepts, often to large groups of people. If you suffer from a fear of public speaking, find a way to overcome it.
  • Interpersonal Skills: A significant amount of time spent working on teams comprised of colleagues working in roles similar to yours, as well as in marketing, production, and sales, requires excellent people skills.
  • Problem Solving: Industrial design involves identifying problems and developing products to solve them. It is also essential to be able to resolve issues that come up during the process of bringing a concept to life.

Job Outlook

This occupation employs 39,700 people (2016). The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 4% which is slower than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. However, industrial designers with training in two and three dimensional CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and CAID (computer-aided industrial design) have a better job outlook. This growth rate compares to a projected 7% growth for all occupations.

Work Environment

Most industrial designers work for manufacturers, although a small proportion are self-employed. Most work in an office environment, although they may travel to client sites, testing facilities, design centers, or locations that are manufacturing their products.

Work Schedule

Many industrial designers work regular hours but may need to work nights or weekends periodically as projects and deadlines require. Self-employed designers may work weeknights and weekends to accommodate client schedules.

How to Get the Job

FIND AN INTERNSHIP

Get guidance by working with an experienced industrial designer. You can find internships through online job search sites or your school's career center.

 

APPLY

Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also visit online sites for various industry trade groups, as they may have job boards. Consider attending events put on by these groups and network with others in the industry.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in an industrial designer career also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries: