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What skills does a young industrial designer need to develop?

30 Jul


Make things with your hands. Especially sculpture.

If you have the technical skills but lack the artist’s eye, you will never be a great designer.

However, it is necessary to have technical skills. The best designers know what is impossible with current technology, what is possible at high cost or with low yield, what is safe and easy, etc.

Learn how your objects are manufactured. Talk to machinists, watch a CNC mill, visit a factory assembly line, feed an injection-molding machine, etc.

The technology is always changing. It is important to be aware of the latest developments — the best methods, the newest processes, the most advanced tools, etc. — even if you can’t use them yet.

It is also necessary to have an intimate knowledge of your materials. Have you noticed the way that accomplished woodworkers talk about wood? On this forum, SDR, SPD, Heath, and Tktoo are good examples (and there are others, of course). They have a deep understanding — deeper than “knowledge”, more like “feeling” — of the density and strength of various species, the way wood shrinks and stretches, the way it takes stain and other surface treatments, the extent to which it can be worked, the strength of glues, the effect of moisture, etc.

You should understand ABS, polycarbonate, aluminum or steel alloys — or whatever materials you use — in the same way. You should know how those materials feel, how much they weigh, how sharply they can be bent, how they cut, their thermal properties, how they flow in a mold, the surface finishes available, elasticity, strengths, weaknesses, how they’re produced, how they wear, how they age, the cost, etc., etc., etc. Learn about fasteners and adhesives, too.

You can learn a lot of this from books, but you won’t instinctively KNOW it without experience… So get as much experience as you can: Make things with your hands, but also just HOLD things in your hands, and LOOK at them. Think about WHY they are designed as they are, and WHY they use the materials that they do.

Also, be a critic. Analyze every manufactured object you see; try to find at least one thing wrong with everything, and think about how to fix it with a better design.

Talk with other designers or design students. Try to meet mechanical-engineering students, and talk with them, too. Search the web for “human factors”, “ergonomics”, and “usability”. Read Donald Norman’s books, starting with “The Design of Everyday Things”. Read

Industrial design sketching… the why and how to use sketching to design products

30 Jul

How to move from drawing to designing – Design sojourn

After that take a conscious effort to not just look at objects around you, but to see it in its elements. Ask yourself when you see a beautiful object what sort of elements (line, shape, composition etc.) makes it a beautiful object. When you look at an ugly object, you ask yourself the opposite, what elements don’t work on this design.


Sketching: Approaching the paper with purpose – Paul Beckett

One of the things I ask my students to do before sketching is to build a design theme: a set of carefully curated products, attributes, materials and details that tell a clear story. It explains, for example, whether the product should be engaging and approachable or refined and technical; bold and powerful or so subtle it blends with the environment. Properly constructed, it becomes a designer’s ‘go to’ when sketching, setting up a brainstorm session, exploring form and refining details. From early on, design students should be in the habit of having one or more of these themes in front of them while they sketch, to reinforce the idea that sketching is only useful when it’s helping to realize an idea.