The 4 Gate Keepers of Industrial Design

When I got into design school, I had this ambition to be the best and design the perfect car. Sadly there are a lot of limiting factors that hold designers back from creating the “perfect” product. There have been many products since the inception of capitalism, and I can guarantee you that there isn’t one that has come close to being perfect. And why is that?


Many parts come into play when trying to design a product, but I think there are four significant factors that designers have to always take into account that prevent them from creating the perfect product:

The Market

I believe that the biggest thing that a designer has to study before designing a product is the market. The market dictates how a product is designed. Even if you had unlimited amounts of capital to fund the product, if there isn’t any demand for the product or if the design is too expensive to produce, then there won’t be any incentive in moving forward with the plan. Some companies will sacrifice some aspects of the design, like the materials in use to keep the end product cheaper to produce, thus giving the company a more significant margin for profit, while keeping the costs down. The primary goal of a business is to profit; you can’t profit if there is no market or demand for the product.

Technology

 Designers rely heavily on available technology for manufacturing solutions of their designs, but technological limitations sometimes stop designers from moving forward with a design. No matter how good the design is, if it is impossible to produce, then there is no reason for such design. We are limited to the manufacturing techniques that we have today, and as designers, we always have to keep these techniques in mind before we start our designs.

Physics

The physical limitations of materials used to create the product; the laws of physics are king; we cannot design a product that is impractical in terms of how it would function in the real world. Designers need to prioritize the things that are physically possible.

Patents

Patents are a good and a bad thing for design. It protects original ideas from being copied and unjustly profited from, but at the same time hinders progress in innovation and techniques. 


Designers bridge the gap between Consumers and Engineers. As designers, we always want to strive to innovate and create the best product, but we also need to incorporate some practically in the designs that we come up with and find a balance in it all. These are some of the challenges that designers have to take into account when designing a product. These constraints limit the possibilities of the final product, but I believe that as time moves forward and technological advances become more accessible, there will always be room for improvement for any product.

4 Tips for Beginner Industrial Designers

My first year in college was a mixed bag of success, failure, and realizations. It was one thing reading about Design, and another thing actually jumping in and studying it. Here are 4 things that I learned along the way that I wish I knew before enrolling.

1. It’s not just about drawing cool cars

The main reason why I decided to pursue a career in design was so I could draw cool cars all day. I wanted to do something that I loved. But I quickly learned that sketching and drawing accounted only for about 10% of the overall design process. Around 80% of the whole process was research and development. The entire basis of design is to try and solve a problem, and to solve a problem, you need to know the ins and outs of the product you are trying to improve.

2. MANAGE YOUR TIME WISELY

This might be a given for most if not all professions, but I think it is one to double down on as an Industrial Designer. We will often work with tight deadlines on very time-consuming projects. So the margin of error on timing is fragile to be able to achieve a successful turnaround. Be prepared to sacrifice time for leisure to focus on the project at hand, otherwise train your body to endure many countless sleepless nights.

3. YOU WILL NEVER SEE THINGS THE SAME

It will be drilled into you to notice the flaws in everything, but also come to appreciate truly great designs better. It is as if you are looking through a different lens, so to speak. Boring products like teacups will suddenly become interesting. You’ll notice the subtle choices the designer made in the product, and realize the manufacturing feat they had to overcome to achieve a finished product. Once exciting products such as cars become mundane and stale. Your mindset will shift towards continually thinking of ways to make things better.

4. THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL

I think there is a misconception that sketching is the most important skill a designer needs to develop to become successful. While it is a vital skill to have, there is another often overlooked, and that is one’s problem-solving skills. Developing a good foundation in problem-solving will set you up to become a much better designer than those who solely focus on their presentation skills. Problem solving will make you more adaptable to unpredictable situations, which will often come during your design career. Someone who can get past problems and solve them easier, in less time, provides a lot of value to possible employers.


You don’t have to be good at everything to be the best at something.

These are some of the things that I’ve learned in my time in school and career. I hope this helps any of you thinking about making the jump into Industrial Design. If you have any questions or would like to give me some feedback, I would love to hear from you.