Industrial Designers

Summary

industrial designers image
Industrial designers imagine how consumers might use a product when they create and test designs.
Quick Facts: Industrial Designers
2012 Median Pay $59,610 per year
$28.66 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 39,200
Job Outlook, 2012-22 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 1,700

What Industrial Designers Do

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers focus on the user experience in creating style and function for a particular gadget or appliance.

Work Environment

Industrial designers work in offices in a variety of industries. Although industrial designers work primarily in offices, they may travel to testing facilities, design centers, clients’ exhibit sites, users’ homes or workplaces, and places where the product is manufactured.

How to Become an Industrial Designer

A bachelor’s degree is usually required for most entry-level industrial design jobs. It is also important for industrial designers to have an electronic portfolio with examples of their best design projects.

Pay

The median annual wage for industrial designers was $59,610 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of industrial designers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Consumer demand for new products and new product styles should sustain the demand for industrial designers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of industrial designers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about industrial designers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Industrial Designers Do About this section

Industrial designers
Industrial designers work primarily in offices, but they may travel to the places where the products are manufactured.

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers focus on the user experience in creating style and function for a particular gadget or appliance.

Duties

Industrial designers typically do the following:

  • Consult with clients to determine requirements for designs
  • Research who will use a particular product, and the various ways it might be used
  • Sketch out ideas or create renderings, which are images on paper or on a computer that provide a better visual of design ideas
  • Use computer software to develop virtual models of different designs
  • Create physical prototypes of their designs
  • Examine materials and production costs to determine manufacturing requirements
  • Work with other specialists such as mechanical engineers or manufacturers to evaluate whether their design concepts will fill a need at a reasonable cost
  • Evaluate product safety, appearance, and function to determine if a design is practical
  • Present designs and demonstrate prototypes to clients for approval

Some industrial designers focus on a particular product category. For example, some design medical equipment, or work on consumer electronics products, such as computers or smart phones. Other designers develop ideas for new bicycles, furniture, housewares, or snowboards. Self-employed designers have more flexibility in the product categories they work on. Designers who work for manufacturers help create the look and feel of a brand through their designs.

Industrial designers imagine how consumers might use a product and test different designs with consumers to see how each design looks and works. Industrial designers often work with engineers, production experts, and market research analysts to find out if their designs are feasible. They apply the input from their colleagues’ professional expertise to further develop their designs. For example, industrial designers may work with market research analysts to develop plans to market new product designs to consumers.

Computers are a major tool for industrial designers. They use two-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) software to sketch ideas, because computers make it easy to make changes and show alternatives. Three-dimensional CAD software is increasingly being used by industrial designers as a tool to transform their two-dimensional designs into models with the help of three-dimensional printers. If they work for manufacturers, they also may use computer-aided industrial design (CAID) software to create specific machine-readable instructions that tell other machines exactly how to build the product.

Work Environment About this section

Industrial designers
Work spaces for industrial designers often include drafting tables and meeting rooms for brainstorming with colleagues.

Industrial designers held about 39,200 jobs in 2012. Work spaces for industrial designers often include drafting tables for sketching designs, meeting rooms with whiteboards for brainstorming with colleagues, and computers and other office equipment for preparing designs and communicating with clients. Although industrial designers work primarily in offices, they may travel to testing facilities, design centers, clients’ exhibit sites, users’ homes or workplaces, and places where the product is manufactured. About 25 percent were self-employed in 2012.

The industries that employed the most industrial designers in 2012 were as follows:

Manufacturing30%
Specialized design services10
Wholesale trade9
Architectural, engineering, and related services7

Work Schedules

Most industrial designers work full time.

Industrial designers who are self-employed or work for firms that hire them out to other organizations may need to frequently adjust their workdays to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts. 

How to Become an Industrial Designer About this section

industrial designers image
A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs.

A bachelor’s degree is usually required for most entry-level industrial design jobs. It is also important for industrial designers to have an electronic portfolio with examples of their best design projects.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is usually required for entry-level industrial design jobs. Most design programs include the courses that industrial designers need in design: sketching, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), industrial materials and processes, and manufacturing methods.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Many schools require successful completion of some basic art and design courses before entry into a bachelor’s degree program. Applicants also may need to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs by collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on contracts for work.

An increasing number of designers are getting a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) to gain business skills. Business skills help designers understand how to fit their designs to meet the cost limitations a firm may have for the production of a given product.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Industrial designers use logic or reasoning skills to study consumers and recognize the need for new products.

Artistic ability. Industrial designers sketch their initial design ideas, which are used later to create prototypes. As such, designers must be able to express their design through illustration.

Computer skills. Industrial designers use computer-aided design software to develop their designs and create prototypes.

Creativity. Industrial designers must be innovative in their designs and the ways in which they integrate existing technologies into their new product.

Interpersonal skills. Industrial designers must develop cooperative working relationships with clients and colleagues who specialize in related disciplines.

Mechanical skills. Industrial designers must understand how products are engineered, at least for the types of products that they design.

Problem-solving skills. Industrial designers identify complex design problems such as the need, size, and cost of a product, anticipate production issues, develop alternatives, evaluate options, and implement solutions.

Advancement

Experienced designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, design department head, or other supervisory positions. Some designers become teachers in design schools or in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers. Many teachers continue to consult privately or operate small design studios in addition to teaching. Some experienced designers open their own design firms.

Pay About this section

Industrial Designers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Industrial designers

$59,610

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations

$43,930

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for industrial designers was $59,610 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,610, and the top 10 percent earned more than $94,250.

As shown in the tabulation below, the median annual wage for industrial designers in the manufacturing industry was $56,880 in May 2012, lower than the median annual wage for the occupation in general. In May 2012, the median annual wages for industrial designers in the top four industries in which these designers worked were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services$69,250
Specialized design services58,530
Manufacturing56,880
Wholesale trade51,770

Most industrial designers work full time.

Industrial designers who are self-employed or work for firms that hire them out to other organizations may need to frequently adjust their workdays to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.

Job Outlook About this section

Industrial Designers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations

7%

Industrial designers

4%

 

Employment of industrial designers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Consumer demand for new products and new product styles should sustain the demand for industrial designers. Employment in the manufacturing industry is projected to experience a slight decline over the projection period contributing to the slower than the average growth for industrial designers.

Employment of industrial designers who design precision instruments and medical equipment is likely to grow more rapidly. Both areas require a high degree of technical ability and design sophistication. Products in these areas also require detailed specifications and precise equipment manufacturing because of the delicate uses of the finished product.

Job Prospects

Prospects are best for job applicants with a strong background in two- and three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided industrial design (CAID). The increasing trend toward the use of sustainable resources is likely to improve prospects for applicants with the knowledge to work with sustainable resources.

Employment projections data for industrial designers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Commercial and industrial designers

27-1021 39,200 40,900 4 1,700 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of industrial designers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Architects

Architects

Architects plan and design houses, office buildings, and other structures.

Bachelor’s degree $73,090
Desktop publishers

Desktop Publishers

Desktop publishers use computer software to design page layouts for newspapers, books, brochures, and other items that are printed or put online. They collect the text, graphics, and other materials they will need and format them into a finished product.

Associate’s degree $37,040
Drafters

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings and plans. Workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Associate’s degree $49,630
Graphic designers

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Bachelor’s degree $44,150
Industrial engineers

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Bachelor’s degree $78,860
Interior designers

Interior Designers

Interior designers make interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations.

Bachelor’s degree $47,600
Software developers

Software Developers

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or other device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.

Bachelor’s degree $93,350
Art directors

Art Directors

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design of a project and direct others who develop artwork and layouts.

Bachelor’s degree $80,880
Fashion designers

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.

Bachelor’s degree $62,860
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Industrial Designers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/industrial-designers.htm (visited December 21, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014