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WHAT IS
INDUSTRIAL
DESIGN?



FILED UNDER INDUSTRIAL DESIGN
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Photo © Sam Gagnon




Does this sound familiar?

You hit your alarm clock — or tell your Google Home to shut up — then roll out of bed only to stub your toe on your bedside table before slip-sliding on your moroccan area rug. (Your hypothetical self is clumsy, ok? Stick with me.) Otherwise unscathed, you reach the mirror, turn on the faucet and squeeze toothpaste on your toothbrush.

Already, you’ve interacted with your pillow, mattress, bed frame, bedding, smart speaker, flooring, faucet, and toothbrush, and you’ve barely even opened your eyes yet. Have you ever thought about where all these ordinary, everyday items came from? It’s entirely possible — and kind of the point — that you haven’t. But the truth is, almost everything we interact with in our everyday lives is designed. The careful consideration that goes into each manufactured object is, at one point, handled by the humble industrial designer.



So, Why Are We Here?


Why not start this post like slackers start wedding speeches? 


The encyclopedia defines Industrial design (so eloquently, might we add) as “the creative activity the aim of which is to determine the formal qualities of objects produced by industry ... including the structural and functional relationship” between object and user.

Like we implied above, the fact that most folks aren’t pondering the shape and suitability of their bedside table or toothbrush is basically proof that the industrial designer’s team did their job. As we like to say in the biz: good design works as intended and looks great doing it. Great design is invisible. If you aren’t thinking about the way your curling iron or razor fits in your hand as you’re using it, we’ve done something right. Alternatively, that protruding corner of your bedside table and lack of non-slip material under your rug are begging for more design consideration. These things stand out like a sore thumb (or toe in this case).


We like to say that something successfully designed by an industrial designer checks three boxes:

1. It solves a problem. If there is no problem (no need for improvement), then there is no new product.

2. It’s intuitive and user-friendly. As Elon Musk said “any product that needs a manual to work is broken.” When you pick up your new curling iron, you aren’t hunting around for the latch that opens it, or scouring the instructions for how to turn it on. If you’ve used a similar product before, much of your interaction with this new one should be instinctual. Industrial designers aim to make your life easier, often by coming up with subtle tweaks that vastly improve your interaction with the product. Just call us designers to the people.

3. Its full life cycle has been considered. It is our fundamental belief that considering a product’s sustainability is no longer optional — it’s morally mandatory. In our eyes, unnecessary throw-away products have no place in society.



Why Turn on the Bat Signal?


The plain truth is, industrial designers are lurking just outside the spotlight of almost every mass-produced product conceived (and many micro-produced ones, too) since about the 1850s.

Granted, there probably aren’t currently a staff of designers overseeing each new run of mason jars or canned tomatoes, but we creep out of the woodwork to get our creative all over everything when:

1. Someone has a completely novel idea. We likely aren’t involved from the moment Sheryl sits up in her bed at 3 am with an outstanding concept for a leash that walks the dog on its own. But once she’s vetted her idea, done some market research about pre-existing products, and checked in with a patent lawyer, she’s likely going to need an industrial designer or two on board to sketch out her idea and create 3-dimensional designs from which her magical time-saving leashes can be built.

2. Someone has an idea of how to improve an existing object. When someone conceives the first floating nightstand that you can’t stub your toe on and doesn’t require any holes in the wall or ceiling, you can bet we’ll be there to design it.

3. A company’s existing product just isn’t performing as well as it could be. The design team will likely have or bring on board an industrial designer if they’re in the market to improve the user experience or practicality of their already-established product.


In case it isn’t clear yet, industrial designers are passionate about solving problems — be it lazy dog-owners, clumsy feet, or underperforming products. As you can see, design isn’t simply about aesthetics, but about how a product performs.

We’re creative, methodical, and bold, and every step of the way, we follow a process you’ll see echoed throughout our website:


Audit, Plan, Execute.



The process of designing something new always feels glamorous to us, even if the item itself is pretty unglamorous. Take, for example, the Grin toothbrush we designed for Simon, a man with a dream of a cleaner, less wasteful way to brush your chompers. Check out our case study!





Ready to get rolling with your own project? We’re waiting to hear from you!





  

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TO HELP.






LET’S WORK TOGETHER.


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