Prototyping Toolbox Series: Tool #5 – Industrial Design

Did you brush your teeth this morning? Put on a pair of shoes? Maybe mow your lawn or fix something around the house this weekend? Well, my friend, you are the end user of industrial design.

But what does that mean?

Keep reading as we explore the ins and outs of industrial design in this next installment of our ongoing Prototyping Toolbox Series. Together, we’ll explain and explore how this tool bridges the divide between art and engineering while influencing your daily product experience.

Our industrial designers work closely with our engineering team to combine aesthetic qualities with engineering purpose.

What is Industrial Design?

Industrial design is the design of physical products. Chances are, if you can hold or touch a product, it’s been imagined, fashioned, and modified by an industrial designer. They are ultimately responsible for a product’s visual aesthetics and feel. 

It’s not just the products, though. It’s also the packaging they come in—think about all those fun unboxing videos on TikTok. Consider the overall vibe a product gives off. Sleek and sophisticated? Practical and user-friendly? Shape, color, and texture are all carefully chosen and tested by an industrial designer.

The Industrial Design Process at Treetown Tech

At Treetown Tech, our industrial designers work on various projects, from small handheld medical devices to large parcel delivery trucks. No matter the size of the end product, our engineers are designing for several groups of people at once. 

For example, with the design of the delivery truck, we have to consider multiple audiences: our client, their clients, the drivers of the truck, and even the people in a neighborhood watching that truck go by. This means weighing everything from the manufacturing process and cost to the serviceability and a balanced aesthetic message. It not only has to convey “robust” and “long-lasting” visually but be those things, too. It must also work well for the end-user, so we focus on user-centric design throughout the process and work through iterations of models. 

Our designers use many different skills to strike this balance, the most important one being the ability to visualize and draw a concept. Generally, the process begins with good old-fashioned pen and paper and loose hand sketches to visualize a concept. The design process is far from linear, however. Quick drawings and renderings allow the design process to be very fluid and move quickly in the beginning. This helps to align all parties on a concept’s look and feel—before investing in detailed CAD modeling.

Many concepts can be quickly created and compared to produce the best outcome.

 Industrial designers bounce back and forth between rendering software such as Keyshot to drawing and sketching programs like Sketchbook Pro. They’ll often come back to pen and paper to work out ideas. You’ll also find them creating loose models with platforms like Rhino or Solidworks and filling in spaces with Photoshop or other graphic editing software.

Industrial design provides the finishing touches to engineered products.

Eventually, these designers can walk into a store and see a product they worked on hanging on the shelf or driving down the street.

Industrial design shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. That’s why, at Treetown Tech, we link our designers with our mechanical, electrical, and software engineering teams. Our emphasis on teamwork allows us to iterate rapidly, but it also means we make sure a design is actually production-ready. A picture’s only worth a thousand words if we can make it a reality.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Great examples of industrial design are pretty much everywhere, but they’re mostly invisible—until you know to look for them. Once you do, though, it’s hard to stop wondering who’s the brain and hands behind that design. It might just be Treetown Tech.

Got a project idea kicking around? Contact our engineers to draw up your next industrial design project today.