The people who make everything around us
Cars, chairs and medical devices may not appear to have much in common, but those working behind the scenes know differently. All come to market using the skills of an industrial designer.
These professionals help translate forms, shapes and mechanisms into the products and services which surround us every day. They likely designed your smart home’s infrastructure and were involved in the design of your phone.
“It’s not just tangible products or buildings, it’s programs, experiences and digital products and digital interfaces too,” says Dr Liam Fennessy, associate dean for industrial design at RMIT.
While some in the industry become sector specialists, others diversify.
“In the auto sector people [might] do one role where they draw cars or 3D model cars in computer environments, and that’s all they do. Whereas, in a consultancy you might move from an agricultural tech product one day to an IT product the next,” explains Fennessy.
These professionals almost always work in teams, which allows for some very narrowly defined specialities.
“Your expertise [might be] in injection molding. But [you’d] be working with people that do other things,” says Fennessy.
While some industrial design projects are one offs, like a design for a shop fit out, industrial designers usually produce items that will be mass manufactured. Tim Phillips started doing exactly that but when he started his own agency, Tilt Industrial Design, he felt strongly that finding a niche would be key to its success.
His mind turned to the built environment. While industrial designers often develop products that sit within or outside a building, such as chairs, tables, lights, or signage, Phillips and his team of industrial designers design large-scale, site-specific design features for architects, landscape architects or artists.
An operable façade at UTS is one example of this multidisciplinary collaboration in action, where the Tilt team used the industrial design process to help achieve an architectural ambition.
“The facade delivers a specific environmental function and a unique aesthetic. This combination of impacts is at the heart of what Tilt is trying to achieve in the built environment,” says Phillips.
Although there’s no formal accreditation required to hang out a shingle as an industrial designer, most enter the field after four years of undergraduate study through an industrial design degree.
Those looking to stand out might consider picking up additional skills enroute. As most manufacturing is coming out of China, Fennessy from RMIT points out that learning Mandarin is an excellent way to become a valuable resource for future employers.
“It’s a real advantage,” Fennessy says.
These creative thinkers need to achieve a lot from each project. Phillips says communication skills are the number one asset he looks for in industrial designers, as designers need to communicate their ideas not only through sketches and drawings, but documents and verbal presentations.
“A great industrial designer must be able to deliver an amazing end-user experience and an equally successful commercial project outcome,” says Phillips.
Article written by Sue White, Sydney Morning Herald
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