Redefining industrial design

Currently, there are significant and recurrent discussions about what 'industrial design' means in our post-industrial era. There are important changes that have inspired a new kind of industrial design practice to emerge as a result of what some might call the 'information and knowledge economy', where designers once considered to be technical workers, today are perhaps more thought of as knowledge workers, working to develop news strategies and processes as much as tangible products.

As part of the #renewID initiative, Icsid asked leading industrial designers to share their thoughts.

Ayse Birsel

Ayse Birsel is an award-winning product designer, Deconstruction: Reconstruction thinker and Fulbright scholar. As co-founder of Birsel + Seck, a humanistic design and innovation studio in New York City, she collaborates with Target, Herman Miller, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson, and TOTO, as well as GE, Hasbro and the Drucker Institute. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

Many years ago a family friend came to tea and taught me what industrial design is, using a teacup. He said, "The rim is curved to fit your lips so you can sip without spilling. It has a handle so that you can hold the hot cup without burning yourself. And it has a saucer so that even if you spill, you don't ruin your mom's tablecloth." This to me is industrial design. The ability to anticipate and solve people's needs by creating physical artifacts.

Industrial design was very much a result of the industrial age. Mass-produced products for mass consumption. Today in the knowledge age, this has changed. Design's artifacts are not limited to industrial design and include experience design, service design, interface design, design thinking and strategy, something Allan Chochinov and Steven Heller of SVA smartly coined as, Products of Design.

Maybe we can say that today, we distill and transform the information of the knowledge age to help people live their lives, hopefully in better ways. We design lives.

Martin Darbyshire

Martin Darbyshire is founder and CEO of the design studio "tangerine" which has offices in the UK, Korea and Brazil. Launched in 1989, "tangerine" has worked with some of the world's most prestigious brands to produce familiar iconic designs and services. Most notably, Darbyshire led the multidisciplinary team that created both generations of the "Club World" business-class aircraft seating for British Airways – the world's first fully flat bed in business class.

Industrial design in the developed world is increasingly defined by the 'experience' economy not simply the design of the products or design for industry.

And what does 'industrial' really mean in the wake of the fourth industrial revolution?

So, an integrated approach using design of products, environments, touch, information, movement, colour, texture and sound, as designed interactions all of which contribute to an enhanced experience. This leads to new behavior (I can sleep on a plane lying flat now; I can copy A3 on my A4 multi-function printer), the embedding of attractiveness and stickiness for brands (excitement, satisfaction, trust, loyalty) and, last but by no means least, commercial success.

So, the definition is being shifted as the nature of 'industry' shifts and evolves.

The paradox is that to do this well in a new era where ‘experience’ (non-physical) is king, we need sharpened and deepened industrial design skills to create amazing objects and environments (physical) that support the creation - in the moment of use - of the enhanced experience.

The product is the servant of the service and the experience, but yet, without the right product beautifully and meaningfully delivered, the service or experience is diminished.

Gianfranco Zaccai

Gianfranco Zaccai is President and Chief Design Officer of Continuum, an international multidisciplinary design consultancy he founded in 1983. Zaccai's earlier work focused on designing better healthcare experiences, as exemplified in the Compass system for Herman Miller Healthcare. Among many other consumer products, he and Continuum created the Swiffer cleaning system for Procter & Gamble and the famous Reebok Pump.

I truly and deeply love the process and the practice of "Industrial Design" but have not believed the name to be relevant for a very long time.

In the 1980's when we founded Design Continuum, with studios and clients in two continents, we were already entering a post-industrial economy and as Thomas Friedman would later explore brilliantly in The World is Flat the world was becoming ever flatter. Friedman's triage of globalisation made the point that in the face of rapid and constant change we must be ever more curious and innovative and I believe that this is the true mission of design by any name. We then called ourselves "Design Continuum" because we saw our work to be about the symbiotic and concurrent collaboration among different fields of design; from Industrial Design to Engineering, Graphic Design, and Architecture. We quickly realised that we had to place the most important contributors in the process: PEOPLE, at the very center and to learn from them the insights leading to what truly matters in order to develop profitable, sustainable, and people delighting solutions.

A few years ago we shortened our name to Continuum but we practice "Human Centered Design"!