To a lay man, both Industrial design and product design might seem to be the same thing. To an extent, it’s correct as well. But when it comes to intricately defining the two, we get to know the difference. There have been ongoing debates on the meaning of both the words in each other’s relation and we have come up with a simplified explanation so as to differentiate both the terms.
To start with, Industrial design is a term used primarily for physical objects. It might include pens, bikes, laptops, biscuit packets, etc. Basically, any object that is mass-produced is an object of Industrial design. The designers or engineers who design or develop these objects have specializations in various fields. These might include automotive design, consumer electronic designs, home goods designs, furniture designs, and many more. On the other hand, product design includes a part of these designs. In the cotemporary arena, product design is also being used for digital system i.e. a complex set of systems that the user interacts with, through the medium of communication goods. For example, laptop, phone, tablets, etc.
To explain it on another level, Industrial design is a field of study. It’s a career path. Many colleges offer courses in Industrial design. This course is further divided into specializations such as transportation, automotive, and product design. Hence, product design is a further division of Industrial design. Any product designer is also an Industrial designer but the vice versa does not stand true.
Industrial design is a vast field while product design is more specific. Industrial designers have a history. Long back in history, when machinery was not the trend, things were made and developed by craftsmen and artisans. Machinery came into being, and to lure people to buy their goods, industries had to develop and enhance their products. They started hiring industrial designers. It is difficult to trace a history of product design as it is an integral part of industrial design and not something secluded from it. But product design includes things other than industrial goods as well.
To simplify, product design or product engineering services companies almost everything that can be mass-produced except automotive and transportation goods as there are other specialized designers who are assigned for the task. Software and digital products, household and consumer products are designed by product designers along with other goods. Product design does not limit only to physical goods. Now a day, it is a term used for services as well like in the scenario of digital systems.
It is quite difficult to draw a clear line between the two. Sometimes, both industrial design and product design overlap, making it difficult to point the distinction. When talking in normal terms without technical specifications, both the terms can be used interchangeably as overall both does the same kind of work. To reach a conclusion, it can be said that product design is a subset of industrial design with additional attributes to it other than industrial designing.
Shiv Kumar Pandey is an online marketing and content consultant and writes for various companies including Rhombus, an ODM company in India providing outsourced product engineering services.This author has published 3 articles so far.