What is the difference between product design and industrial design?

It is common for the terms ‘industrial design’ and ‘product design’ to be used interchangeably, however this can sometimes get confusing as the two are slightly different. This can cause some confusion when businesses are looking to have a product designed and manufactured.

Product design means different things to different people, and indeed the process can be different from product to product. Industrial design can be part of product design, although it typically only applies to industrial products.

Here we’ve taken a look at both terms, to help you understand what is meant by each.

Industrial Design

Industrial Revolution is the reason why we have the standard of living we do today. Before industry was created, everything was a unique product. Then mass production began, which allowed for everything to be produced on a larger scale and to the exact same specifications.

None of this would have happened without engineers, or industrial designers, who were the force behind the revolution. More than just engineers, these designers found ways to make items in a cheaper way whilst making them look nice so that people would by them.  

Essentially, industrial designers take a useful product that serves a need and makes that product more beautiful and, in some cases, more useful than it already is. They are the people who make new models of a car or improve the ergonomics of the humble office chair.

Product Design

Product design encompasses everything that a product is, from initial design to the end result. It is the sketches, the prototypes and the finished product in a customer’s hand and can sometimes include products covered by industrial design.

Product designers can be involved in anything from clothing to computer software, it all depends on what their clients need and what they specialise in.

Product designers generally produce many of the products we use every day, but for more specialised items such as cars, planes, and appliances there has often been an industrial designer on hand too.  

The main confusion between product design and industrial design tends to come in cases when they overlap. Someone working to build parts of an airplane is engaging in product design but is also doing some industrial design too.

All in all, the distinction between the two is marginal and ultimately both types of design have the end goal to produce a product, whether that be something that serves a purpose for a company or solves a problem for a consumer.

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Tim Spafford

Tim is a student who works hard to get a degree in finance and build a successful career in business consulting. Being a student and living in London Tim has a real-life experience in budgeting, saving, money making, traveling and having fun.