Industrial Product Design

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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In the last one hundred years, industrial product design has become increasingly important in the development of new commercial products. Though it began as a reaction to ornamentation, product design soon evolved into a school of thought with it's own movements, major players, and systems of thought. Currently, industrial product design techniques are responsible not only for the look of many products, but for surprising innovations in product functionality, as well.

A Brief History of Industrial Product Design

In the late 1800s, a British designer named William Morris founded The Firm, arguably the first industrial product design consultancy. The legacy of The Firm is most visible in the fields of textiles and book designs. Morris' idea that devices for living--whether furniture, utensils, or textiles--should be carefully designed and crafted is exemplified in his finely made wallpaper patterns--some of which are still in production.

The founding idea of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which gave birth to The Firm, is that the functions of products should be the basis of the designs of those products. This is still the driving force behind industrial design today. However, most of today's designers must consider production efficiency, an idea that would have been anathema to The Firm and the Arts and Crafts Movement as a whole.

Today's designers also consider ergonomics, the costs of materials, engineering concerns, and many other aspects of a product before they are able to produce a finished design. Some designers are also able to focus all of these concerns into a product that is capable of actually enhancing it's own functionality; in other words, by actively pursuing design, a production team can increase their understanding of what the product does and what the product needs, fostering innovation though in-depth user consideration. This idea is called human-centered design (or contextual design) in the ID world.

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