What is industrial design?

Industrial Design

Our vision may be put in one idea: industrial design is not a type of art and not a means of self-expression. It is diligent and responsible pro-social work; and it is not an overstatement at all. When we hear “industrial design”, we recall images of luxurious sports cars, exclusive furniture, objects d’art, luxury items and fashion industry. Certainly, it is a tip of the iceberg, a cliché that came from glossy magazines. In fact, it is not bad; it is a huge industry with a mind-blowing capitalization.

Yet, these objects do not surround us in our everyday life. Our lives are formed and made comfortable by such trivial things as cutlery - to eat; door and window handles - to touch; hangers - to put our clothes on; chests and containers - to store our favorite stuff and delicacies in; technologies - to cook, wash up, inform us; toys - to bring joy to our kids; tools - to construct, repair and simply to relax; equipment - to help us save our money, clean our water, give us light, warmth and safety, and many other, scarcely ever noticeable, but irreplaceable things.

We develop design for people.

A new product development starts with a design research aimed at producing coherent picture of interaction of a human with environment. This helps to work through all the aspects of the new product design. The designer’s mission is to predict the response of various consumer sectors to the occurrence of a new technological novelty.

Following the research, a product concept is developed, undergoing 3 stages: primary sketches, detailed sketches, and photorealistic renders. The most important point at this stage is to develop a design keeping in mind that it is a real product that will be produced. Consequently, one should roughly estimate what materials are to be used and how the product can be made functional from the very beginning. The final concept shall be approved by the customer, who selects 1-2 sketches out of 15 suggested ones.

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Relevance of industrial design

There’s an opinion that there’s no demand for the industrial design in Ukraine. That’s not true. Let’s consider an example: a business owner, who traveled a lot around the world selecting the best product samples at exhibitions, compiles a certain image of a new product, and together with a pile of catalogs brings it to its graphic designer, who works in Illustrator and Photoshop and once in two months draws a new “Attention, offer!” leaflet. Together, they develop some resemblance of a sketch and call it “industrial design”, and after that, all the work is assigned to an engineer. Here is the most interesting part. It is a common practice that the main task of the mechanical engineer is to design a device that works and is easy to manufacture. It is what he is paid for. Oftentimes, for an engineer, every device is simplified to a square box and every hanger is simplified to a nail on the wall. Simple and functional. Thus, having spent a couple of months on development, the engineer produces drawings for the production, the production makes a trial design and presents it in triumph, but no one can figure out why the boss is displeased. A good box, a good nail, everything operates, done as usual. All in all, the article goes into production because of deadlines; meanwhile, the boss once again goes abroad to find out if he missed something out.

So, who’s to blame? The industrial designer, because he is absent in this chain. However, the good news is that today, more and more Ukrainian companies grasp the importance of the industrial design and perceive it as an integral part of the product development process.

“Real sector” of industrial design

A real industrial design is the one that is of demand in Ukraine; it is the design that makes real money.

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Design of what objects is of demand in Ukraine?

Firstly, it is no secret that the most wide-scale and cheap objects are the plastic ones. Traditionally, there are many “plastic” productions in Ukraine. Since the Soviet times to this very day, this industry has been well-developed in our country. Our experts can produce molds, we have good equipment such as injection-molding machines, extrusion lines, blow and even rotatory equipment, as well as metal-working machinery for forms production. For this reason, development of advanced plasticware has always been and will be in demand in Ukraine. Sheet ware production is very sought-after in Ukraine as well.

It is not hard to determine what products are produced in Ukraine - these are various containers: dishes, basins, boxes, canisters, bottles, etc., construction materials: anchors, profiles, structural parts for windows, doors, window profile systems, etc., wiring products: sockets, switches, home appliances: electricity supply meters, electrics, cross connect equipment, fixed phones, weighing equipment, measuring tools, heating equipment, ventilating equipment: ventilators, grids, access panels, etc. Majority of these products are made of plastic or sheet metal. All these products are produced in Ukraine in huge amounts, a lot of them are exported. It creates big capitalization. Certainly, all of them need to be attractive and require qualitative and modern industrial design. Moreover, not the goods designed for the ultimate user, like the utensils or furnishing happen to be a golden goose, but goods for business, namely, products used in technical processes, for instance, corking products: corks for vodka, lids and canisters for engine oils, containers for foodstuff prepacking, building construction and finishing systems elements. The point at issue is the B2B sector, which always has the demand and the money. Let’s face it: industrial design of cars and mobile phones is not wanted in Ukraine; designer chairs, lamps and basins will not trade off unless the average earnings of population reach at least $2,000. Yes, it is a big business in Europe, it makes economic sense there, that’s why it is in demand, and the reason is not that the Europeans are more open-minded to design, they simply are richer. That’s business.

Challenge No. 1: nobody wants to work in the “real sector of industrial design” – our industrial designers are not interested in developing an advanced form for a raw plug or inventing a more convenient lock for a herring can.

Advice for designers No. 1: make real industrial design. Stick to B2B model. Your goldmine is in products for business and products for export.

Challenge No. 2: product success depends on close rapport of an industrial designer and an engineer. However, due to the latest events, there are scarcely any young engineers in this county. There are young software engineers and electronics engineers. There is quite a number of furniture designers. There are not so many young hardware engineers, mechanical engineers. However, there are very few mechanical engineers specializing in injection molding and plastic. Now, let’s imagine the scale of output of plastic products in the aggregate and the share of plastic in the industrial design in particular. The gap is immense. Further, it is no secret that there are problems in teamwork between the designers and the “old hands” – “Soviet-style” engineers. That is the peculiarity of our national industrial design.

Advice for designers No. 2: do not reckon with certainty on engineers. You should be both an engineer and a technologist yourself.

Stages of industrial design

Now, let’s move from theory to practice, namely, to more detailed information about the stages of industrial design development process.

  1. Research sketching of design concept;
  2. Preparation of final concept which includes all requested alterations and modifications based on the reviews and discussions obtained;
  3. Development of 3D CAD model with detailed description of outer parts and surface form (without going into details of the interior structure);
  4. Preparation of the document containing detailed information about finishing, color, material, graphics and printing.

Deadlines depend on the project complexity. This process may be rather time-consuming, consisting of a number of additional stages and continuous adjustments.