Industrial Design vs. Product Design – What’s the Difference and Why is it Important?

Knowing the difference between industrial design vs product design can help in creating a successful product. Learn what makes this distinction important.

If you want to sound sophisticated at your next party or friend gathering, explain the difference between industrial design vs. product design. It’s guaranteed to either start an interesting conversation or create an awkward pause.

To most, the difference between industrial design vs. product design is a distinction without a difference, but to you and I, there is a critical difference that becomes abundantly clear and important the further you wade into product design and development. If you didn’t already know the difference, you are in luck because we are about to delve into the minutia shortly. Arming yourself with this information is important so you can more intelligently execute your vision for your product with the right people and process.

What is Product Design and Development?

Simply put, product development is the complete end-to-end design of your product. This includes everything from the initial idea to market research to its application in conceptual sketches to prototype development and eventually its final design with branding.

Product design’s role (and that of product design companies) in product development is specifically related to ensuring the product’s ultimate embodiment achieves an optimal blend of form, fit, and function for the target suppliers, customers, and investors.

For example, a product designer could be responsible for designing appropriate form, fit and function for a new software application, investment instrument, or a new airplane part. The type of product does not matter, only that it best serves the needs of its various stakeholders.

Two young men working with a 3D printer for product design and development

What is Industrial Design?

Industrial design specifically relates to the design of products made at industrial scale or using industrial processes. The name actually comes from the industrial age when factories were being designed to create specific products in mass and it became important, as it is now, to design physical products with mass manufacturability in mind. Similar to what we discussed above, industrial designers and product design engineering companies are responsible to ensure form, fit and function of the product. The only difference is that their focus is specifically on balancing the requirements of form, fit and function with manufacturability in mind.

Why is this Important?!

When you approach your product design and development, it’s important to be clear about your end goal.

If you are making a physical product and you want to only make a few handmade items, almost any product design service (or yourself or numerous other prototype design companies) can get the job done. However, if you intend to make the product at a scale larger than handmade, you need an experienced industrial designer in the process from the beginning. Not only will it expedite the process and make your product easier to visualize and more professional, it will save you boatloads of time and money when you get to the later stages of product design and development.

For instance, an awkward design choice when you are making a few hundred units is usually, at worst, an inconvenience, however, an awkward design choice when making a few thousand or hundred thousand units can be catastrophic, causing manufacturers and other product design engineering companies to decline your product due to poor engineering and requiring a complete redesign or unnecessary manufacturing costs.

Caliper, bearing, and gear resting on papers of blueprints

If you are interested in learning more about industrial design vs product design, or if considering a new product, even if it’s just a redesign or packaging (which can also require industrial design), we are happy to discuss the finer points of how to optimally integrate industrial design into the development process.

We do free consultations so you can pick the brains of our experienced team with no pressure as you figure out your plan. Jupiter Design’s team has 25+ years of product development, industrial design, packaging design, and branding design experience from working on many of the world’s greatest brands that we enjoy sharing. Give us a call or send us a message so we can help you go from start to finish on the right track!

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