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What is the Difference between Industrial Design and Design Engineering?

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Design Engineering (DE) takes the design of a product and transforms it from a concept or prototype into a usable item that appeals to customers.

Industrial Design (ID) applies the art of design that stresses the attractiveness of the product and its function. The creation can be an original design or improvements on an existing product.

One should complement the other. What good is an aesthetically appealing product if it does not function well? Moreover, what is the value of a beautifully performing product if it fails to capture consumer’s attention? They depend on one another.

One can think of one as the application of art and the other as the application of science. DE involves the scientific aspect in the process. It is concerned more with the function, usability, and performance of the product. ID addresses the creation of the product so it will entice buyers through its aesthetics. The engineers want to make a product that performs as designed. The industrial designer complements the engineer by creating a product whose beauty draws the attention of prospective buyers.

One of prominent example exemplifying the union of design and engineering is the Dyson vacuum. Coincidentally, the British inventor, James Dyson, spent one year at the Byam Shaw School of Art, then studied interior design at the Royal College of Art before moving to engineering. Sir James Dyson did not invent the vacuum; he redesigned the upright to look attractive. However, his genius became evident using cyclonic separation to engineer a vacuum that would not lose suction. He finally succeeded after five years and the failure of 5,127 prototypes.

Education

The question is-does a bachelor’s degree in industrial design involve engineering? Conversely, what portion of design engineering is devoted to designing? The answer is that both programs often overlap. The following are examples based upon current curricula.

A Bachelor of Science in Industrial Science typically includes classes in materials and processes. The curriculum involves the study of the structure and characteristics of metal, polymer/wood, ceramic and composite materials. Other courses in this vein are polymer processes, which explore the properties of plastic, elastomeric, and fiber-reinforced composite materials and the methods used to manufacture products from them. Also, the primary and secondary manufacturing processes used to convert wood-fiber materials into components and finished products.

One of the differences between the two programs is the inclusion of mathematics and technology courses in design engineering. For example, the Pennsylvania College of Technology offers a B.S. in Engineering Design Technology. Their program has twelve credit hours of mathematics, namely algebra, calculus, and trigonometry. This program and others like it impart competency in the fundamentals of evolving automated manufacturing technology. Graduates have the qualifications to apply engineering principles in the design of mechanical and computer integrated manufacturing systems.

An undergraduate program in industrial design will have less emphasis on science-related courses, such as physics, scientific problem solving, computer-aided engineering, and strength of materials. In place of these, you will see more classes associated with design. These include graphic design, 2D digital imaging, 3D design, and industrial design for manufacture. Generally, one of the few technical courses in ID pertains to materials and manufacturing processes.

Students who prefer the artistic application of design may narrow their school search to Fine Arts programs in ID. These are more likely to include classes in sculpture, drawing, painting, metals and contemporary art jewelry. If you Google Fine Arts for Design Engineering, you are unlikely to find any. Most are science degrees.

Students who want to combine the art form with the science of design may look for a bachelor of science in ID. Such as colleges whose program is in the school’s Engineering and Design Department. Through the combination of engineering and design, students study marketing principles, research methods, artistic skills, 3D techniques, materials, color application, ergonomics, and manufacturing processes.

Western Washington University provides access to manufacturing facilities. There are CNC machines (computer numerical control), waterjet cutters, laser cutter, 3D printers, injection molders, extruders, milling machines, welding equipment, and paint booths. All of the standard shop equipment that students need to make almost anything they design. The school boasts that 97% of its ID graduates find work in industrial design or related design fields.

Career Differences

A check of online employment websites, such as Indeed, reveals different careers between the two professions-ID and DE.

As you might expect, a search for design engineering positions shows more jobs associated with scientific and technical fields. Examples are oil and gas services, lighting, computer science, packing equipment, medical scanning, and x-ray equipment. The majority of these jobs require a degree in design engineering or mechanical engineering.

The same employment site (Indeed) has numerous jobs listed requiring individuals with a degree industrial design. The consensus appears to favor consumer products. Examples are televisions (Vizio), cookware (Williams and Sonoma), portable fans (Vornado), furniture, music technology (Alesis drums), bicycles, gear and components (Specialized), wearable technology (Garmin), Toys (Little Kids), and many more.

One thing many of these jobs have in common is the collaboration of design with engineering, marketing, and management. The partnership unites the disciplines of design and engineering. Meaning, whichever degree you choose, it benefits you to be knowledgeable in ID and DE.

 Additional Resources

What Is the Difference Between an Engineering Degree and an Engineering Technology Degree?

What Are the Easiest Degrees to Get in Engineering Technology?

What Is the Demand for a Degree in Engineering Technology?

Which Degree is more Beneficial-Product Design or Industrial Design?

What Are the Benefits of Pursuing a Degree in Mechanical Engineering?

 

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