Difference Between Industrial Design & Industrial Engineering

Industrial designers and industrial engineers are professionals who are involved in product manufacturing. This article compares the type of work these professionals do and what their objectives are.

Comparing Industrial Designers to Industrial Engineers

Industrial designers and industrial engineers are both involved with manufacturing, but they perform different functions. Industrial designers develop items that will be manufactured, while industrial engineers work to improve the production process. Industrial engineers earn a higher salary, although the current job prospects may be slightly better for industrial designers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Industrial Designer Bachelor's Degree $67,790 2%
Industrial Engineer Bachelor's Degree $84,310 1%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Industrial Designers vs. Industrial Engineers

Industrial designers are the professionals who modify existing product designs or develop new products. Sometimes they work on products to determine how to make them more functional or to change how they function. For example, when cell phones were first introduced they were only used for phone calls and text messages. Eventually, cell phones were designed to function as cameras and portable gaming systems as well. Industrial engineers focus their talents on determining the most efficient way for products to be manufactured. They consider things like the costs, safety and applicable regulations related to product manufacturing and identify ways to make the manufacturing process faster, safer or less expensive so that their employers can increase their profits.

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers spend a lot of time in offices and meeting rooms where they work on product design plans. Once a product they've designed is being manufactured they may visit the factory, or they may travel to other sites where things they've designed are installed or displayed. Self-employed industrial designers may need to work in the evening or on weekends, although it's common for these professionals to primarily work during daytime office hours. Manufacturing is the primary employer of industrial designers, while others may work for architectural or engineering firms. Industrial designers must blend creative and artistic talents with the ability to solve problems in order to develop original and innovative designs that are functional and stay on budget. Industrial designers need to have a bachelor's degree in industrial design or a comparable discipline.

Job responsibilities of an industrial designer include:

  • Attending meetings with clients
  • Conducting market research
  • Building prototypes
  • Drawing product designs
  • Determining how to promote the product to consumers
  • Assessing product production

Industrial Engineer

Earning a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering is the typical way to prepare for a career as an industrial engineer. Their work location may vary depending on where they're employed. Their primary objective is to improve the efficiency of the production process, so they may work in factories or other locations where products are assembled. Industrial engineers need to be innovative so that they can come up with effective solutions to improve the manufacturing process. Since they also need to understand the issues production staff are facing and other factors like budgetary concerns it's also important that they have good listening skills.

Job responsibilities of an industrial engineer include:

  • Assessing the production process
  • Soliciting feedback from production staff about issues or concerns
  • Identifying ways to improve production
  • Reviewing environmental factors that may affect the production process
  • Assessing the cost-effectiveness of their delivery systems

Related Careers

Mechanical device engineers perform work that's similar to what industrial designers do, because they also design products such as tools, so it's possible those thinking about a career in industrial design may also be interested in mechanical device engineering. Those interested in a career as an industrial engineer may also want to look into being an occupational safety specialist, since these professionals assess workplace environments to make sure they follow regulations so that staff can perform their duties safely.

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