Industrial Designer

Industrial designers design consumer articles in response to a recognized need for a new product, or may improve on an existing product. They specialize in any one of many fields, ranging from household equipment such as utensils, appliances or furniture, to more specialized equipment such as cars, the interiors of aeroplanes or medical equipment.

Their role mainly requires expertise in the overall conceptualisation, interaction with products and the design of their appearance.

Their work covers all spheres of industry. Industrial designers combine artistic talent with a knowledge of marketing, materials and methods of production to create new products or improve the appearance and functional design of existing products.

Industrial designers apply their creativity and technological expertise in designing articles that are functional and at the same time, satisfy the user’s need for aesthetic appeal. They have to consider elements of practicality, marketing and manufacturing as well as the comfort and safety of the user.

When a product is designed, the first priority is to establish the main function of the product. This involves a study of all possible problems as well as an analysis of relevant research data. Designers use this information to prepare a brief on the design to avoid duplication and to ensure that the new products are better than the previous or existing ones.

Key factors to be considered are function, user friendliness, appearance, cost, safety, maintenance, marketing strategies and competitiveness with other products. They have to produce technical specifications for the new product, the estimated cost and the restriction of the design. After the brief has been prepared, designers start working on the actual design.

They make sketches, models and drafts using drawings. They are not able to express themselves freely, but work within the confines of the brief, available technology and the client’s marketing plan. They present their ideas to their client who considers them and decides whether the proposed design satisfies his/her conditions. If the client accepts the design, the designer prepares the final specifications and drawings for the production of the article.

Industrial designers are also involved in the progress discussion, planning as well as quality control. In some cases, industrial designers can be involved with the gathering of information on how an existing product compares with competing products, the needs of users and fashion trends. They may then sketch a variety of designs and consult with managers, engineers, sales and marketing personnel and others, about the feasibility of each idea.

They make a model of the design selected by the company management. After any necessary revisions a final prototype is made with the material to be used in the finished product. The approved prototype is then put into production. Consumer testing by means of market research is important at all stages to assess consumer reaction, in order to determine the acceptability of the product and the need for any changes.

Industrial designers specialise in the following areas:

Consumer Appliance Designers: are involved in a design team that develops products and appliances to assist or entertain in the home or office (i.e. white goods, electronic goods, computer equipment etc.)

Furniture Designers: create designs for the manufacture of domestic, commercial and industrial furniture

Transport Designers work in large teams putting shape, style and comfort into cars, trucks and trains.
Industrial designers work mostly indoors, usually in clean, well-lit and well-ventilated rooms, where they spend their time in front of a drawing board making sketches or in workshops when making models.

Personal Requirements

  • artistic and creative, yet practical
  • ability to draw and build models
  • able to communicate with people on all levels
  • able to translate abstract ideas into tangible designs
  • friendly and tactful, especially when dealing with clients
  • technical aptitude
  • sound engineering knowledge
  • familiar with plastics / timber / metal and composite materials
  • understand and meet the needs and tastes of the public
  • sound understanding of marketing, sales work and other business activities
  • able to handle rejection of ideas
  • good vision and manual dexterity

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: No compulsory subjects. An art portfolio will be required for entry into an art school or college. 
Recommended subjects: Art or Engineering Design (EGD)

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

What to Study

Diploma: Industrial Design - UJ, CPUT, Design School.

Post-graduate study: MTech. Industrial Design - UJ, recommended to develop the necessary competencies for entering the industrial design profession.


  • factories and manufacturers of mass produced goods
  • all branches of industry
  • shop-fitters and furnishers
  • architectural and interior designers
  • colleges, universities and art schools
  • design consultants and studios
  • printers and publishers
  • marketing organisations
  • self-employment, working independently and receiving assignments from clients, or develop ideas or inventions and negotiate with manufacturers through licence agreements.

Further Information

SABS Design Institute
1 Dr Lategan Road
Tel: (012) 428-6326

Design Centre
118 Greenway
Tel: (011) 646-1984

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to industrial designers and ask permission to observe them at work
  • take a design course to develop your artistic talents
  • assemble a portfolio of drawings and sketches to demonstrate your creativity and ability to communicate ideas

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

University of Johannesburg: Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

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