Explore environmental careers.
Industrial designers combine artistic skills and practical knowledge to conceptualize and produce designs for a variety of manufactured products. Their designs often try to improve on existing products, for example making a product more environmentally friendly, aesthetically appealing, or easier to use or reducing the costs of production and maintenance. Industrial designers are employed across all industries on a variety of projects and contribute a great deal to advancing sustainable production.
At a glanceImagine you are sitting at your workbench carefully changing the diaper of a lifelike baby doll. You are an industrial designer and this doll is wearing one of the prototype diapers you have developed. You work for a large manufacturer of baby goods that has a reputation for producing environmentally friendly products. As part of its research and development department, you have been working on its biggest project to date: a functional biodegradable diaper. Given the millions of disposable diapers that end up in Canadian landfills each year, a quality, economical biodegradable diaper would be a coup for this company. As an industrial designer, you know that taking consumer products from concept through design, manufacturing, and sale takes years. You have already been working on the biodegradable diaper for more than a year, ten months of that spent in research alone. You began the project by researching everything you could on diapers, including the most common materials used to manufacture them, factors that influence consumer choices, and trends and innovations in traditional diaper designs. You also looked for information on existing biodegradable diapers. Are there companies that design or manufacture them? If so, why aren't they competitive in the diaper market? Once you had that information, you began the ergonomic research that would decide the size, shape, weight, and kinds of materials that would be used in the diaper. From your research, you sketched a design and built a prototype that was evaluated and tested by the entire research department. Part of that evaluation was establishing a total cost for the diapers, factoring in the cost of materials, manufacturing, transportation, and retail mark-up. These biodegradable diapers must be priced competitively in comparison to regular diapers if you want consumers to buy them, so controlling cost is essential. You will incorporate your colleagues' feedback into the design and build another prototype for testing. After months of retooling and perfecting the design, the diaper will eventually be approved for production and appear on store shelves shortly thereafter.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an industrial designer:
- Research markets and talk to clients to determine their needs and how new products will be used.
- Redesign existing products to create a more aesthetic solution, lower production and maintenance costs, improve efficiency ratings, or make products easier to use.
- Refine designs for their appropriate manufacturing considerations.
- Research product usage, design trends, materials, and production methods.
- Create concept sketches by hand and using drafting software.
- Build models and three-dimensional prototypes of new products.
- Evaluate design ideas for practicality, cost, and market characteristics.
- Make presentations and consult on designs with clients, design committees, or product development teams.
- Prepare complete specifications, including production-ready part files and drawings and a list of materials and estimated costs required for production.
Work environmentIndustrial designers work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to: In the office:
- Brainstorming new concepts and hand sketching and rendering on a drafting table
- Using software to create new designs
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, suppliers, and experts in the field
- Researching new technology and advancements in industrial design
- Giving presentations to clients and attending trade shows and conferences
- Field-testing new designs
- Speaking to the public at product showings and product unveilings
- Discussing with manufacturers new processes for manufacturing and assembling products
- Watching how users interact with products to find ways for improving product designs
- Using light machinery and power tools to create models of designs for validation and testing
Where to workThere are a number of places industrial designers can find employment. They include:
- Industrial design firms
- Architectural firms
- Engineering consulting firms
- Manufacturing companies
- Self-employed consultant
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as an industrial designer, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
- Industrial Arts
- Industrial Design
- Environmental Design
- Mechanical Engineering