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Larsen: design engineer
10/09/08 03:03 PM
The Difference Between Industrial Design And Design Engineering Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

The Difference Between Industrial Design And Design Engineering

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Larsen: design engineer
10/09/08 03:03 PM
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I think that a very important distinction is being made; one that is too often ignored, as the author notes. Unfortunately, in doing so, the author falls into the DE/ID devide which claims many products prey: "My job is to design a working product and send that to an industrial designer to dress it up. "
A truly well designed product must be created through highly collaborative efforts between designers and engineers. This sequential mode of "engineering" a product then "throwing it over the wall" to designers to dress it up can produce a product with poor ergonomics, gemeric form, and unappealing style. (The opposite case is also detrimantal, as the author indicates.)
Any product must be treated as an integrated object with both functionality and style: highly interdependent and equally important elements.

Doug : Industrial Designer
10/09/08 03:03 PM
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I agree with the distinction between disciplines and the Wikipedia definitions are very easy to understand. In my experience, there is some overlap (some IDs are very good engineers, some DEs are very good designers). And I am concerned with how neatly (crudely?) the author identifies the most basic fault of the designer, engineer, and the client. I feel this greatly underestimates anyone in each of these three roles.
There are numerous workflow models the DE, ID, and Client can utilize to bring a new product to market. When the author definitively states "My job is to design a working product and send that to an industrial designer to dress it up." really understates (or undercuts) the fullness of a successful collaboration between these two disciplines and their responsibility to the client.
The methods that develop and deliver the best products are those methods where the engineer and designer work in tandem with the client to address the elements of function, user interaction, feature set, market placement, packaging and production, material, aesthetics, etc. This is by no means a complete list. The point is, when successfully communicating and employing collaborative methods the team is able to minimize 'redesigning of parts at the client's expense', clarify the functional differences of the designer or the engineer, and the reduce the hidden costs and surprises from the client's point of view.
Just my two cents...

10/09/08 03:03 PM
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The points made in this article were informative to me, someone who is grappling with the job descriptions within the product development department. As director of product development for a confectionary company, I wear many hats, taking on functions of R&D, graphic and structural design of packaging and manufacturing issues. It's helpful to see that there are actual job descriptions relating to these functions.

Greg Smith
10/09/08 03:03 PM
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This is article is rubbish. Did this article further the state of the art? I don't think so. Any design engineer worth her salt should already know the distinction between industrial engineering and industrial design.

M. Shepherd
03/02/10 11:05 AM
Great info for newbies new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

@Greg Smith:
As someone not in the field, but seeking basic information about such 'nuances,' this article was helpful to the newbie me. I'd like to go to school for DE, but most of the so-called 'tech schools' in my area are ID. I appreciate the bluntness of the article, as I'm interested in solving problems, not wasting time with colour schemes or 'trendiness.' Have anyone see the 2009 documentary 'Objectified'? What rubbish.
& yes, I have the same cell ph fr 5 years ago.

Ed Straeker
09/11/10 05:41 AM
Inaccurate description new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

As a designer (ID) I began at first to think of this article as a forthright effort to compare and explain the two disciplines. However, it is clear the author has no idea what Industrial design is or it's role in the entire process. I work with DE's and in my experience they do not sit around and wait for me to throw something pretty or stylish or shiny over the wall so that they can make it work. Indeed, if that were true I'd be unemployed!
(ID) and (DE) work as a team. I will concede there are people who call themselves "Industrial designers" but then ignore the issues of manufacturing and/or usability; they are not constrained those issues and thereby are "artists". They misrepresent the discipline in my opinion.
What really confirms my assertion is this statement "My job is to design a working product and send that to an industrial designer to dress it up". So typical of engineering professionals who do not possess an accurate understanding of Industrial design. A good Industrial designer is excellent in his discipline AND has enough competency to understand the concerns of the design engineer (and vise versa) thereby "streamlining" the process, and hopefully reducing costs to the client. At this point the "blurring" of the two disciplines occur.

Ric Sosa
01/26/11 09:21 PM
a twentieth century view new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

This is such a great article... for Design History. The view of this author makes a great case for twentieth-century definitions of design. One can easily tell that his definitions are 25+ years old. Entirely superseded since, thankfully. Dear Agjah, it's probably the right time for retirement.

(Stranger )
03/08/11 02:50 AM
Re: a twentieth century view new [re: Ric Sosa]Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Engineering Design is general term where as industrial design is specific to some extent..there are many discipline to describe it might be industrial electrical design or industrial mechanical design or industrial civil design...

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David McDonald
07/07/11 09:01 AM
Engineering Director new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I found this article to be somewhat informative. I understand that your an engineer and that you receive designs from industrial designers that are not fully engineered and ready for tooling, manufacturing and production. The reason for this is because industrial designers are not mechanical engineers.

A better way to look at this is from the clients perspective. A proper product development company will offer both industrial design and product engineering services as one package. Ideally, the design team would be working directly with the engineering team to ensure the product that's manufactured is the same product that was introduced to the client during the final design phases.
I would say that nearly all reputable design firms will be able to offer you this service as a complete package. Some of the best design firms can also offer in-house prototyping services and may even be able to offer assistance in getting your product through tooling and manufacturing with either foreign or domestic manufacturing partners.
JAM-Proactive offers all of these services.

Edited by ibsystems on 11/07/11 11:45 AM.

A. L.
12/14/11 02:15 PM
It is Still a Problem new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Even after all this years I think this article is still current.
After reading all your reviews I think that there was a misunderstanding of what my intention was.
I wanted to show the difference between the two professions. There is not a single person that can claim to perform both tasks. I agree that it has to be a very strong collaboration among the people involved. But this does not mean to step in each other’s areas; again I will take doctors as an example. Exactly their method of collaboration has to apply in our field too!!!

(Stranger )
01/12/12 02:30 PM
Re: It is Still a Problem new [re: A. L.]Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply


" There is not a single person that can claim to perform both tasks."


My first degree was in mechanical engineering, after which I spent about 10 years working in various engineering roles in metal processing, cable manufacture, aerospace components, electronic packaging and food processing.

In my early 30s I left work to spend two years working for an MA on an industrial design course aimed at converting engineers into hybrids. Hard work it was, too.

Six or so years on from that I am working as a freelance designer AND engineer. Some of my work is filling in specific gaps in teams, some of it starts with a clean sheet of paper and a client brief. In this instance, concepts are mine, ergonomics / usability are defined by me and I get involved with field testing, visuals are mine, test rigs are mine, project management is mine, engineering is generally mine, development and testing is mine, production CAD is most definitely mine to the point where it goes to the fab shops.  Heck, I even dabble in electrical system work and PLC programming for rigs.

I'll admit my sketching can be ropey, tho it is sufficient to get ideas across, and that I do call in experts when I get out of my depth (electronic system design, complex analysis problems, CFD etc).

Sleep deprivation comes with the territory.

I am based in the UK.  There are a couple of schools producing talented designer / engineer types, some of whom are extremely (multi) talented.   Some of those that have been through the system have names that you might recognise and whose products or work you will have used or benefitted from.  I have been working for a bit with another independant who made the transition at a younger age than me and a fair proportion of his work has made it into the shops.

Beware sweeping statements.


Shaun ahern
01/25/12 07:37 PM
please take note new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Just to make a correction here. You have industrial designers and engineering designers.... But also product design engineers , this discipline is taught as ether;
a half and half degree (half ID half mechanical engineering) about four years study
or as a double degree, two degrees both ID and ME about five years study
As far as i understand this program is new 'in relative terms' to the industry. It has been created to fill the gap which is the topic of the article above. And to create team leaders with an education in both fields, to lead the research groups of both designers and engineers who are tasked with the creation of a new product.
This degree is offered at 'Swinburne' melbourne Australia and at 'Monash' same city

JOHN Efekodo
02/19/13 12:54 AM
Good and Clear new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

This is a very clear article. The author says it all and I'm quite clear as to the differences between DE and ID. I studied (Engineering Design) DE in the UK and we was put through the process of how to make products work. But for the life of me I never really understood why I was unable to make them beautiful or aethethic, that is until now. It's the ID's work to do that and not mine.

Hannu Havusto
09/17/13 12:16 AM
Come on - this is not true anymore new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I was looking for texts where industrial design and mechanical design (engineering) are compared. I was really surprised to find this article. I think there are many old fashioned, conservative and stubborn opinions that might have been true many years ago but not anymore.
1. Industrial design is not art. It is a function in product development that tries to find an optimum solution that fills users and manufacturers needs. It starts to researching all possible facts to make a description how and where and by whom the product is used AND what are the best ways to manufacture it.
2. It is a totally wrong idea that FIRST some engineer design a product and AFTER that there comes an artist (industrial designer) who tries to soften some sharp corners and add nice color to make it more acceptable for the buyer.
3. Regarding draft angles it takes about couple of minutes to explain the basic idea of them to industrial design student. And then he/she at least tries to make them right. Of course there are difficult forms and complex molds that is not so easy to understand. But that's why we need injection molding experts to give advice that everything will be ok for molding. But in many case a good industrial designer can also think better solutions for the whole product concept and then it might be possible to use cheaper natural molds and so on.
I hope that borders between engineers and industrial designers will be removed because we need all the best expertise to make good products.

not hybrind
10/15/13 11:34 AM
ID and DE are different new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

The last review gives the impression that ID and DE are lately "Fused" to one. This is the dangerous position that many companies have adopted. By eliminating DE (not tooling engineer) you have created a hybrid creature that is half able of delivering a finished product.
ID is an industrial artist it is not a product designer. The contribute of the ID on the design process is anything but engineering. Therefore an ID with some engineering knowledge will only design a half finished design.
If the author of this article takes as example the draft angles I don't think he means just that. For a product to be designed properly is needed not just draft angles but many other particular features that only an engineer may address during the product design process.
This mindset is the cause of catastrophe of many organizations that the new product design is left on the hands of the hybrids like the last reviewer.

Dexter Francis
11/17/13 08:04 PM
Whence Product Design? new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

It may be time to update this article, as many schools, such as Stanford, have been offering courses of study which attempt to bridge the gap between the art of Industrial and science of Engineering Design. Particularly in this day when CAD Drafter/Detailing is called "Design" and Engineering Analysis (Thermal/Structural) must blend with User Experience, it's not possible to settle for traditional Mechanical/Electrical/Software boundaries.

Isa L
11/25/13 06:01 AM
The Jack of all Trades new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I am curious what would the last reviewer (and anyone else that agree with him) think if the Stanford offers courses of study for brain and plastic surgeons combined.
People, nobody, nobody is "Jack of all Trades"!!!!
Universities want your money and they claim to train you in both this specialties but you know deep in your heart that your skills are limited in one direction only. Maybe there is a "Da Vinci" among us but we all know he/she is an exception.

Ivanhoe Chaput
03/14/15 07:37 PM
There is quite a my opinion. new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

As Agjah and others point out, it's not merely draft angles that may be missing. Without making a book out of his article, there are many aspects to designing plastic injection molded parts such as thinning out ribs, sharp corners where you don't want sink marks and radii where added strength is needed. There may be places that require ejector pins and maybe a boss needs to be added or adding a slide for a required snap. There are material issues such as using a high percentage of glass for strength that may require a change in shape for fill or flow. There are gating types such as fan gates, overlap gates and film gates that need to be positioned for both function and cosmetics. And on and on. I've been a design engineer all my career, but I also have an artistic flair. In my business of 34 years, I've used industrial design firms and have often had to re-shape features for one reason or another. A DE firm such as mine will sometimes hire an ID firm, but I've never seen it the other way around. I can only assume that when one doesn't know, one doesn't ask. Yes, I agree, it's a recipe for disaster.

Masumaido Sekuzu
12/08/15 09:38 PM
Sample Size new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

The notion that a person can excel in only one thing is narrow-minded. Sure, many people have specialties, but there exist people still who have more than one major skill or area of expertise.
It is understandable the frustration with those who claim to do more than they can deliver, but the way that emotion is conveyed should not be as to hold others back from their highest potentials by marking all as being in one single, limiting category or the other as this article does.
As to advice for the customer, request samples from the people with whom you would like to work, then make a decision based on the work those people have produced.

Igloo Girl
05/22/16 07:53 PM
Not exactly. new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

As an Industrial Designer, who did a four year bachelor course nearly 20 years ago, it is my opinion that the above explanation isn't correct.
Firstly, an Industrial Designer is qualified to work as a Design Engineer. A Design Engineer may also work as an Industrial Designer. Both courses are so remarkably similar that Universities don't commonly offer both, but only offer one or the other. The handful of Universities that offer both, do so for marketing reasons and/or to provide a shorter degree course option (eg; one will be three years and the other four years). This is similar to the medical field (using the above analogy). Where degrees with different names imply different courses, but are actually all the same when you get down to the details - medical science, nursing, physio, sports medicine. Many of those courses share nearly identical units, they might adjust the order the classes are completed, but in the end they're more similar than different. Offering lots of courses boosts University intake and makes students feel catered too. Different 'degrees' might cost different amounts, even though the course is the same.
If an Industrial Designer lacks the skills to design for manufacture (designing with correct tolerances, gradients, materials and so on) then they are simply not very good at their job. The purpose of the degree/job is to design for manufacture. If they can't do that, well, they should receive further training on the job.
This issue has occurred because many Art School based design courses neglect the technical aspects of the Industrial Design course. Many of them focus on the aesthetics of products. These universities usually have excellent creative programs and can produce interesting looking designs. Is this the future of Industrial Design? All style, but no technical knowledge?
I learned at a technical University (I won't name it) where we were taught the relevant engineering of manufacturing processes by engineers and workshop technicians. We had engineering exams and every single design was critiqued and graded by a team including an engineer.
However, many aspects of designing for manufacture are best learned on the job. You don't truly understand mistakes until you make them.

Austin Stark
09/04/16 02:28 PM
Big Difference Between Industrial Design and Design Engineer new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I have a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a masters in Industrial Design. In engineering school students are not really taught how to design products. Engineering students are taught a lot of math and science. In the process they become very good at breaking problems down. When an engineering student graduates and is asked to design products they are going to make products that meet specifications, that will not break and can be manufactured. They are not very good at making products people want to use. I guess sometimes industrial designers think that they can do design engineers jobs because if a product does not require calculations then the education an engineer has completed has really only indirect benefits. These indirect benefits include being able to break down a problem very well and understanding physics much better than their Industrial design counterpart. An industrial designer could not be a design engineer at a place that sells lifting beams because that requires calculations to make sure the beam does not break and no one dies. Design engineering in my opinion is applied science and math.
Industrial designer’s education teaches them how to create experiences that connect with the products user. Industrial designers do this through understanding the users’ needs and wants. They create objects that are aesthetically pleasing easy to use and ergonomic. They learn how to innovate and create new products that solve users’ needs and wants. Engineers do not have the training to make aesthetically pleasing objects. They are much more focused on what makes the most logical sense in terms of money savings and physics. Since emotions are not logical engineers can completely ignore emotions therefore making products that no one wants to use.
I do not think that designers and engineers understand the need for the other profession because they think so differently. Doctors have the same med school education then they break off into specialties. An industrial designer might be focused on art his whole life and then majors in industrial design. An engineering student might be focused on math and sciences his whole life then majors in engineering. There is little overlap in education.
Both Engineers and Designers can be very innovative, but one deals with user experience and the other deals with making things work. There is a little overlap, but without training in both nether can come close to being able to do what the other does. A lot of people have talked about the importance of the intersection of humanities and the sciences. When you combine engineers and designers that is what you get. Both are most effective when they work collaboratively together.

Joe Martone
01/23/17 11:20 AM
Industrial Design and Engineering new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I have been an industrial designer for more than 25 years and hold BS in Industrial Design and hold an MBA from Rensselaer Poly Tech. I have led global teams of designers and engineers and I an expert in materials and processes. Finally, I have developed products across numerous industries and hold more than 35 utility and design patents.
The title Industrial Design is confusing and often misunderstood. It is improper and offensive to describe Industrial Designers as the ones that "pretty things up".
For me, Industrial Design is the synthesis of engineering, design and business perspectives in the development of successful products. Success is measured in dollars but also in brand strengthening and consumer satisfaction. by these measures, I have been immensely successful.
If we were to turn the table (as devils advocate) an Industrial designer would say that a design engineer will refine the design (provided by ID) to ensure the most efficient use of material and details related to mold gating etc. Further, they must get permission to alter the design intent.
Please note that unlike engineering, Industrial Design is not "standerdized" and that different schools have vastly different programs that range from pure "art" to others that are founded in mechanical engineering. when evaluating a new hire for a project or a position, it is wise to gauge what skill set you need (perhaps based on our current capabilities) and evaluate the candidates body of work.
I suggest that there are many paths to new product development and that on requires a broad range of skills to not only cross the finish line, but to do so with grace. This may be the result of one or two highly (cross functionally) skilled people or by teams that collectively have these skills.
Finally, regarding draft.
Often, the first pass at a new design requires freedom to explore new structures, shapes, materials, mechanisms, etc.. Many Industrial Designers will provide "unencumbered" concepts (where draft and even assembly methodology is undetermined) to measure interest by the client or end user with an expectation of future refinement. This is NOT my approach or the approach of my staff. I hold that opportunities for creative solutions are revealed when one understands relevant molding/ forming and manufacturing constrains. It also saves time and money in the long run.
Thank you for the article, I agree that we need to clarify what these titles mean, but we must also avoid minimizing the importance of each other's expertise.
Best Regards.

Lavender Trails
03/24/17 12:10 PM
So both go hand in hand new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I found that both r incomplete without each other....still from customer's point of view they seem to contradict this fact.....but all I can say is an industrial designer needs to know the work of the other as well to make the design work but necessarily need not interfere in an engineer's work.

Product Design Space
05/01/17 01:09 PM
Still a bit of a misunderstanding new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Your article is insightful. However, it is quite inaccurate to define a whole industry with your singular experience. Not all Industrial Designers are created equal. Many companies now hire industrial designers to be key strategists, design researchers, ethnographers, and business systems strategists. Their job is not to make anything look "pretty" or as you mention "dress it up." It is to do formulate the requirements of products, systems, and services from a human-centered POV. This comes before any engineering takes place.
As mentioned above in another review, it is somewhat offensive to the industry to say that an industrial designer's job is to just an "applied art" and "dress it up."
You may want to investigate companies such as BCGDV, Microsoft Inclusive Design, IDEO, Frog Design, Tesla, Smart Design, RCA, RISD, ArtCenter, Standford D-School, etc. They all convey a different definition and role for the Industrial Designer.

Tony Stark
08/30/17 07:08 AM
An engineer's's another new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Ok, let's get the ubiquitous CV out of the way first: design engineer for far too long, company director, CAD expert and instructor, top grade degree from top university, patents, awards, customers included Automotive OEMs and leading product design consultancies, someone took a nice photo of me once. Currently taking a sabbatical from work to study a PhD, because those letters will look nice on my business card eventually.
In my experience you can always tell how creative a role is by how offended someone gets when you try to describe their profession in any simple terms (and I have many close friends and colleagues working in industrial design that would agree). Design engineers are less creative and therefore much more boring people. You wouldn’t want them at a dinner party, but they’d care less about getting an invite (and I have many close friends and colleagues working in engineering design that don’t get out much).
So, my simple definition: an industrial designer will produce a design, for a design engineer to ensure will work.
An engineer can design a product that will always work, but maybe no-one will ever want. Industrial designers will always design stuff that looks great and everyone wants, but you’re never sure if it will work. For that reason it’s best to have both. Try to be someone who thinks they’re good at both, and most top design consultancies will assume you’re not the best at either…and they’d be right
How much involvement each role will have is completely dependent on the product, the company or companies responsible for the design, and the industry. Each role will have specific talents that the other doesn’t either fully appreciate, or sometimes even know about (see above article), but they are both critical to successful projects.
Industrial designers are attention whores, engineers are just jealous they're not as pretty.
For a more detailed description look them up in Wikipedia, don’t pay too much attention to what either an industrial designer or a design engineer will tell you, because they generally have only got half the facts, and an overinflated opinion of themselves

Clark Smith
11/29/18 03:03 AM
Reviews new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Very Interesting !! I appreciate your blog its a interesting and it attract other peoples to read this blog. John Alex
11/29/18 03:04 AM

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Great blog post thanks for sharing it. emad ahmed
10/22/20 04:03 PM

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emad ahmed
10/22/20 04:05 PM
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emad ahmed
10/22/20 04:05 PM
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emad ahmed
10/22/20 04:06 PM
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emad ahmed
10/22/20 04:07 PM
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