Key Differences: Industrial Design Vs Product Design [Expert Advice]

industrial design vs product design

When we talk about creativity and innovation, industrial design and product design are two disciplines often spoken of in the same breath. Product Design and Industrial design are often used to refer to the same process, though equally, others view a distinct variation between the two. In truth both opinions would be acceptable to use today, simply searching the internet will quickly find diverging views.

In this blog, we will treat these as two differing fields, shedding light on their unique attributes and how they converge and diverge in the modern design landscape.

Historical Evolution

Here is how the present-day industrial design company of UK and similar industries have evolved:

Brief History of Industrial Design

Industrial design’s roots trace back to the Industrial Revolution when mass production began to take hold. It was an era of unprecedented change, where the focus shifted from artisanal, handcrafted products to machine-produced goods. The need for designers who could create aesthetically pleasing and mass-producible items gave rise to the field of industrial design.

Brief History of Product Design

Product design, although it shares a timeline with industrial design, and reverse engineering solutions, emerged more explicitly with the advent of consumer culture. It focuses not just on the aesthetics and functionality of a product but also on the user experience, ergonomics, and the emotional connection between the product and its user.

Core Principles

Core Principles of Industrial Design

Industrial design revolves around the principle of creating products that are functional, aesthetically pleasing, and suitable for mass production. It often involves a deep understanding of materials, manufacturing processes, and technology.

Core Principles of Product Design

Product design services are guided by the principle of solving specific user problems through design. It emphasises user experience, usability, and the emotional connection that users have with the product, along with its functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Design Process

Industrial Design Process

The industrial design process typically involves research, sketching, prototyping, testing, and refining designs, with a strong focus on the manufacturability of the product.

Product Design Process

Product design often follows a similar process but places greater emphasis on user research, usability testing, and iterating designs based on user feedback.

What Are The Similarities Between Product Design And Industrial Design?

Here’s a deeper look into their key similarities:

1. User-Centric Approach

At the heart of both industrial and product design lies a fundamental focus on the user. Both disciplines prioritise understanding the user’s needs, preferences, and behaviors to ensure that the final product is not only functional but also resonates with the target audience. This user-centric approach is crucial for creating products that are intuitive, accessible, and satisfying to use.

2. Emphasis on Functionality and Aesthetics

Both fields strive to balance functionality with aesthetics. Whether it’s a piece of industrial equipment or a consumer product, the goal is to design something that is not only effective and efficient in its function but also appealing in its appearance. This balance is key to creating products that are both practical and desirable.

3. Innovation and Creativity

Innovation is a driving force in both industrial and product design. Designers in both fields are continually pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, exploring new ideas, materials, and technologies to create novel solutions to everyday challenges. This pursuit of innovation ensures a constant evolution and improvement in the products and experiences we encounter.

4. Problem-Solving Orientation

Both industrial and product designers are, at their core, problem solvers. They are tasked with identifying problems or needs and then devising practical, effective solutions. This often involves a process of ideation, prototyping, testing, and refining to arrive at a design that addresses the identified issues in the most efficient and user-friendly manner.

What Are the Differences Between Industrial Design And Product Design?

1. Focus and Scope

Industrial design often has a broader scope, considering the entire lifecycle of a product from manufacturing to disposal. Product design, on the other hand, focuses more intimately on the user’s interaction with the product.

2. End-User Consideration

While both fields consider the end-user, product design tends to delve deeper into the emotional and psychological aspects of design, prioritising user experience and satisfaction.

3. Collaboration

Industrial designers oftеn work closеly with artists and engineers to rеfinе thе product’s appеarancе. Product dеsignеrs collaboratе with a widе rangе of profеssionals, including еnginееrs, markеtеrs, and sometimes even еnd-usеrs, to crеatе a product that mееts various critеria. 

Professional Roles

Roles in Industrial Design

Industrial designers often work closely with engineers and manufacturers, to provide the technical aspects of production.

Roles in Product Design

Product designers tend to collaborate more with user experience researchers, and consumers, focusing on the usability and functionality of the product.

Impact on Society

Both industrial and product design have a profound impact on society. Industrial design has shaped the way we mass-produce and consume products, while product design has significantly influenced our daily interactions and emotional connections with the products we use.

Future Trends

As we look toward the future, both industrial and product design are poised to undergo significant transformations, driven by evolving technology, consumer expectations, and global challenges. Here’s a closer look at the emerging trends in these fields:

  1. Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Design: With growing environmental concerns, both industrial and product design are increasingly focusing on sustainable practices. This includes the use of eco-friendly materials, designing for longevity, and considering the full lifecycle of products to minimise environmental impact. Designers are now tasked with creating products that not only meet consumer needs but also promote environmental stewardship.
  2. Incorporation of Smart Technologies: The integration of smart technologies is rapidly reshaping product design. Products are becoming more connected and intelligent, with the incorporation of IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities, AI, and machine learning. This trend is leading to the creation of products that can adapt to user preferences, improve energy efficiency, and enhance the overall user experience.
  3. User-Centric and Inclusive Design: There is a growing emphasis on designing products that are accessible and inclusive, catering to a diverse range of users and abilities. This trend is about creating products that are not only functional and aesthetically pleasing but also considerate of the varied needs and experiences of all users, promoting inclusivity and accessibility.
  4. Advancements in Materials and Manufacturing: New materials and manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing and advanced composites, are opening up new possibilities in both industrial and product design. These advancements allow for more complex designs, rapid prototyping, and customisation options, enabling designers to push the boundaries of creativity and functionality.
  5. Digital and Virtual Design Tools: The use of digital and virtual tools is becoming more prevalent in the design process. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are being used for product visualisation and testing, allowing designers to create and modify designs in a virtual environment. This not only speeds up the design process but also provides a more immersive and interactive way to evaluate and refine products.
  6. Emphasis on Emotional Design: Product design is increasingly focusing on creating emotional connections with users. This involves designing products that not only serve a functional purpose but also evoke positive emotions and experiences. The trend is moving towards creating products that resonate with users on a deeper level, fostering brand loyalty and user satisfaction.
  7. Collaborative and Cross-Disciplinary Approaches: The future of design lies in collaboration across various disciplines. Industrial and product designers are increasingly working alongside engineers, technologists, and even psychologists, to create products that are innovative, user-friendly, and socially responsible. This interdisciplinary approach is essential for addressing complex design challenges and creating holistic solutions.
  8. Personalisation and Customisation: The demand for personalised and customised products is on the rise. Consumers are seeking products that can be tailored to their specific needs and preferences. This trend is leading to more flexible design processes and the use of technologies that can accommodate customisation at scale.
  9. Global and Cultural Influences: As the world becomes more interconnected, global and cultural influences are playing a larger role in design. This involves incorporating diverse cultural aesthetics into product design, reflecting a global perspective and catering to an international market.

Wrapping Up

The comparison between industrial design and product design reveals a fascinating array of differences and commonalities. Both practices have a shared objective of enhancing user experience and functionality, but they diverge in their approaches and focus.

Industrial design emphasises the practical aspects of manufacturing and product life cycle, while product design includes the user’s emotional and psychological connection with the product and its usability. As discussed at the start of this blog, others will rightly argue that these differences are no longer true or even the reverse depending on their experience. What this discussion does highlight is the skills and talents of today’s designers and what their tasks entail to produce a successful product.