What Is an Industrial Designer?

Job Description

Car designer with a cup of coffee in studio
••• Lane Oatey/Blue Jean Images / Getty Images

An industrial designer creates manufactured products such as cars, boats, housewares, computer hardware, sports equipment, consumer electronics, toys, theme park attractions, and medical devices. He or she combines art, business, and engineering knowledge to develop concepts for these manufactured items and then does 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.

Quick Facts

  • Industrial designers earn a  median annual salary of $65,970 (2017).
  • This occupation employs 39,700 people (2016).
  • Most people work for manufacturers. Under a fifth are self-employed.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth that will be slower than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026, but 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.

    A Day In an Industrial Designer's Life

    Job announcements on  Indeed.com listed the following job duties:

    • "Continuously come up with new product designs"
    • "Develop and iterate design intention through sketches, prototypes, renderings and communication with manufacturers"
    • "Regularly present design work to category leaders"
    • "Develop product from concept to factory production while adhering to budgets and timelines"
    • "Identify suitable manufacturing partners, source components, and negotiate costs"
    • "Advocate on behalf of new product throughout the entire design and production process from early stage concept illustration to sample creation and mass production"
    • "Collaborate with marketing teams on on-site photo shoots, prepare for photo shoot style outs and ensure all key product shots are met as necessary"

    How to Become an Industrial Designer

    The educational requirements for this field are quite specific. 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.

    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. Become proficient in using software such as Adobe Suite and Microsoft Office, as well as industry-specific programs like SolidWorks.

    What Soft Skills Do Health Educator's Need?

    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 CommunicationYou 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 SolvingIndustrial 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.

      What Will Employers Expect From You?

      Here are qualifications, other than technical skills and experience, employers are seeking, according to job announcements on Indeed.com:

      • "Strong aesthetic sensibility and ability to visually and verbally communicate through sketches, renderings, and presentations"
      • "Confident sharing your own ideas and taking initiative "
      • "Superior follow-through and detail orientation"
      • "Ability to identify trends and opportunities in the marketplace"
      • "Good taste in form, color, and material"
      • "A self-managing, motivated, and entrepreneurial nature"

      Is This Career a Good Fit?

      Your chosen occupation must be a good match for your interests, personality type, and work-related values. Consider becoming an industrial designer only if you have the following traits:

      Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

       DescriptionAnnual Salary (2017)Educational Requirements
      Fashion DesignerCreates clothing and accessories $67,420Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design (Preferred but not Required)
      Interior DesignerDevelops living and commercial spaces that are functional and aesthetically pleasing $51,500Associate Degree, Certificate, or Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design

      Graphic Designer

      Communicates messages using visual elements $48,700Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design

      Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited August 7, 2018).