"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
Industrial 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.
Grisdale 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."
Industrial 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."
"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
"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."
Industrial 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."
Javier 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?"