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Industrial/product designers work from design briefs to create solutions for new products that are innovative, practical and suitable for manufacturing.

Employers seek candidates with a good eye for detail combined with well-developed technical and creative skills.

What does an industrial designer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Industrial designers are involved in the making of products such as furniture, cars, home appliances and toys.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • consulting managers and clients about design requirements
  • negotiating and agreeing contracts, budgets and time-scales
  • clarifying and solving design issues
  • investigating appropriate materials and production processes
  • producing sketches and sample designs
  • testing product designs using models, prototypes, specialist computer software and computer-aided design (CAD) technology
  • maintaining an awareness of current design trends and influences
  • liaising with sales, marketing and production departments
  • correcting product faults
  • presenting designs, samples and final work to customers for evaluation

Typical employers of industrial/product designers

  • Commercial manufacturers
  • Industrial manufacturers
  • Domestic product manufacturers
  • Design consultancies
  • Retailers
  • Point-of-sale designers

Freelance work or self-employment is possible for designers with appropriate industrial experience, although it can be difficult to become established. This option requires a network of contacts, good business sense and a determined and rigorous approach to the work.

Jobs are advertised by careers services and recruitment agencies, online and in newspapers and trade publications including Design Week. Speculative applications are recommended; the Directory of Design Consultants provides useful contact information. A sound portfolio of previous work should be prepared for applications.

Qualifications and training required

To become an industrial/product designer, you will need a degree or a higher national diploma (HND) in a relevant subject such as industrial design, product design, 3D design or spatial design. Postgraduate qualifications can be helpful for graduates from other disciplines and for job opportunities within specialist market sectors, such as automotive, furniture and ceramics design.

Pre-entry experience gained via vacation work, industrial placements, design competitions and final-year projects is advantageous.

Achieving chartered status with the Chartered Society of Designers can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need to have been a practising designer for five or more years, and will need to submit a detailed application and portfolio, including evidence of continuing professional development (CPD). Once these have been reviewed, you will either be awarded chartered status or will be invited to a ‘professional review’ meeting, where you will be assessed by two senior design practitioners. They will then decide whether to award chartership.

The Chartered Society of Designers offers different levels of membership depending on your experience. You can become a student member (open to those studying any aspect of design), an associate member (open to recent graduates and those in the early stages of their design career), a full member (open to those with more than three years’ design experience), or a chartered member (open to chartered designers).

Key skills for industrial /product designers

  • A good eye for detail
  • Well-developed technical and creative skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • IT skills, including CAD
  • Communication and interpersonal skills

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