Commercial and Industrial Designer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Commercial and Industrial Designers Career Video



Insider Info

dot"We go to work and draw and color all day," says Marianne Grisdale. She is an industrial designer. That sounds like a good way to recapture your childhood and get paid for it. But of course, there is much more to an industrial design career.

dotIndustrial designers create, plan and develop the designs for consumer and commercial products. Just about any industry that produces products needs someone to design them. From toys to cars to furniture to electronics, an industrial designer has had a hand in most products you use.

dotGrisdale is now a senior designer and project manager for a consulting company in Chicago. She finds many challenges in her work. "All the subjects that you learned in grade school apply every day. Every project is different. So, one day you might be working on a toy and the next on a medical product."

dotIndustrial design is a creative field. But it is based on technology and strict specifications. Bjarki Hallgrimsson likes the creative part of his job. He enjoys "making a difference, making things work."

He wishes more people could understand that designers do more than make things look good. "Designers add value by making products that are easier to use, ergonomic, use the right materials, that create a statement for the company as well as continuity, and cost less to produce."

dot"My daily tasks include sketching ideas, control drawings -- our terminology for the very specific type of drawing we create to control the outside appearance -- product graphics and research," says Grisdale.

"Our company has electrical and mechanical engineers, market researchers and model makers on staff. We work together to help a client develop their product from the idea stage through introduction into the marketplace," she adds.

"A client may come to us with as little as a manufacturing capability and ask us to think up [or] invent a product to diversify their offering. Other clients come to us with very specific ideas to develop."

dotIndustrial designers must take into account many factors when designing a product. The product must be useful and convenient as well as attractive. It must meet guidelines for safety to the consumer and the environment. The designer must also consider the market to which the product will be promoted.

"It is helpful to understand the chemistry that goes into various plastics, what kinds of germs might be a problem, and the history or culture of the country your products will be sold in," says Grisdale.

"Most designers need to be able to write well enough to write memos, letters and proposals. Writing is important, but public speaking and sales are even more important. We have to sell our ideas to our teammates, clients and sometimes even the distributor."

dotJavier Verdura is a senior design director in Norwalk, Connecticut. His company works with Fortune 500 corporations. He creates consumer and medical products and packaging.

"To create these new products, an industrial designer uses tools as simple as a pen and paper to sophisticated state-of-the-art computers that create 3D files of the intended design. The most challenging aspects are the extremely tight deadlines and meeting the manufacturing and cost-of-goods constraints while still keeping an innovative breakthrough design," says Verdura.

"This field demands a lot of precision. Plans have to be flawless," says Yani Roumeliotis. He is the principal designer and president of a design firm.

He says you have to understand basic physics. "Like how thin or thick can a plywood chair be before extreme forces crack it in two?"

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.


At a Glance

Plan out consumer and commercial products

  • You can design anything from toys to cars to furniture to electronics
  • You have to consider your market
  • Get a degree in industrial design