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Industrial Design vs Product Design - What's the difference?

Updated: May 9

In the realm of design, two terms often come up: industrial design and product design. While they might seem interchangeable at first glance, there are distinct differences between the two. Understanding these disparities can provide valuable insights into the multifaceted world of design. Let's delve deeper into the nuances of industrial design and product design to gain a clearer understanding of their unique characteristics and applications.

Industrial Design:

Industrial design is a broad field that focuses on the aesthetic and ergonomic aspects of product design, as well as the functionality and manufacturability of goods. Industrial designers are tasked with creating products that are not only visually appealing but also user-friendly and practical. This discipline encompasses everything from consumer electronics and furniture to automobiles and household appliances.

Key aspects of industrial design include:

1. User-Centered Design: Industrial designers prioritize the needs and preferences of end-users when developing products. They conduct thorough research to gain insights into user behavior, preferences, and pain points, ensuring that the final design meets the needs of its intended audience.

2. Form and Function: Industrial designers strike a balance between form and function, focusing on creating products that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. They pay close attention to factors such as ergonomics, usability, and aesthetics to create designs that resonate with consumers.

3. Manufacturability: Industrial designers work closely with engineers and manufacturers to ensure that their designs can be feasibly produced on a large scale. They consider factors such as materials, production processes, and cost-effectiveness to optimize the manufacturing process and streamline production.

Product Design:

Product design is a subset of industrial design that specifically focuses on the conceptualization, development, and refinement of tangible goods. Product designers are responsible for creating products that meet the needs of consumers while also aligning with the brand's vision and objectives. This encompasses everything from the initial ideation phase to the final manufacturing process.

Key aspects of product design include:

1. Conceptualization: Product designers are involved in every stage of the product development process, from brainstorming ideas to creating prototypes. They use sketches, renderings, and 3D modeling tools to visualize their concepts and communicate their ideas effectively.

2. Prototype Development: Product designers create prototypes to test and refine their designs before they are mass-produced. Prototyping allows designers to identify potential flaws or improvements in the design and make necessary adjustments to enhance the final product.

3. Market Research: Product designers conduct market research to identify trends, analyze consumer preferences, and assess market demand. This information helps designers create products that resonate with their target audience and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Key Differences:

While industrial design and product design share similarities, there are several key differences between the two disciplines:

- Scope: Industrial design encompasses a broader range of products and industries, including consumer electronics, furniture, and automotive design, while product design specifically focuses on the development of tangible goods.

- Focus: Industrial design places greater emphasis on aesthetics, ergonomics, and manufacturability, while product design focuses on the entire product development process, from conceptualization to production.

- Collaboration: Industrial designers often collaborate with engineers, manufacturers, and marketing teams to bring their designs to life, while product designers may work more independently or as part of a cross-functional team.


In summary, industrial design and product design are closely related disciplines that play crucial roles in the development of consumer goods. While industrial design focuses on the aesthetic, ergonomic, and manufacturability aspects of product design, product design encompasses the entire product development process, from conceptualization to production. By understanding the nuances of these disciplines, designers can leverage their unique strengths to create innovative and impactful products that resonate with consumers.

At mēkā, we term ourselves a "product design agency" but in reality our work is much larger within the industrial design space. There are a lot of misconceptions as to what we can and cannot do. The only way to find out if we can help you is to contact us -


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