View Full Version : Design job terminology

25th Aug '11, 12:23
What are peoples views on what the following terminology means.
It's clear that job agencies have no idea, some of them even advertise a job as 'designer' and wonder why mechanical designers are ringing them about graphic design jobs.

I thought I knew the difference between each of these, but after reading various things, it seems there's a conflict.

Industrial Design
Product Design
Mechanical Design

Also, if the title has engineer in, does that mean that you actually do engineering things, like calculations and maybe actually fabricating things, or is it just a throw away term that, like in other industries, is the trend to tag on the end of job titles.

26th Aug '11, 01:15
An industrial designer has a degree in industrial design, which is usually earned at a university art college. He or she can draw, and has skills in visual aesthetics, as well as technical training in product design. He or she is NOT an engineer, unless also having earned an engineering degree. Some industries refer to him/her as a "product designer" ...which is true.

A product designer is a person within the scope of industrial design who designs consumer products.
Some industries refer to their product engineers as designers. This is unfortunate for both engineers and designers because it causes confusion and makes for unrealistic expectation from some customers in some situations. They should be called product engineers.

Mechanical design is usually done by an engineer with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Personally, I wish people would call it mechanical engineering, or product engineering...Here's where I'm coming from...
I am an industrial designer. I have a degree in design, not engineering. Occasionally, I design my own mechanisms, but I then hand them off to an ME for final refinement (engineering). MEs have skills and training that I don't have, and I have training and skills that MEs don't have.

In my case, I have considerable talent for mechanisms...but it doesn't mean I "engineer" them. I would be nervous to design a mechanism for a critical safety part in a gun, or a car. I would always go overboard in the safe direction because I don't have the training to be super efficient.

Likewise, I have worked with engineers who have considerable talent for designing the form and look of a product...but who didn't have the design training that an ID has. In general, their products, while not unattractive, aren't going to win many design awards, and tend to look a bit stiff.

Michael Davis
26th Aug '11, 06:59
Note the ascending order of complexity and legal acceptability to perform design and development of products pre 1995, or pre parametric modeling and integrated engineering software that integrates art, design and engineering tools (aka SolidWorks). Post 1995, all is up in flux as skills can be self taught and capability is multiplied by the use of modern engineering software:

Art (nuff said)

Crafts (art plus craftsmanship to create a cultural style of product, reference arts and crafts movement, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arts_and_Crafts_Movement

Industrial Design has training in art, design, and engineering to a limited extent, human factors, marketing, etc. Architect of products, analogy: architect is to structural engineer as industrial designer is to Physical Engineer. Expert Divergent Thinker.

Training varies according to school attended, i.e., industrial decorator, color, texture, form, style only tends to be more along the lines of Art Center or a design trade school, where as color, texture, form, style, intellectual property, product specialties, design for human interaction, invention, and innovation, problem solving etc.

Does not have the math background to do engineering structural analysis, but may have skills relating to assembly development, enclosure design, some mechanism implementation as long as assisted by vendor support engineering staff to help with load calculations, gear specification etc.

Reference the Bauhaus German school pre WWI as the seed material for modern industrial design, and the idea of a circle of skill that improves with age and experience to eventually be inclusive of mechanical engineering etc.

Product Designer Generic for all engineering and design professions that design and develop products. Refers to a two categories: a generic group inclusive of engineer, industrial designer etc. or a non-degreed mechanical engineer, usually spured by of a stronger interest in things mechanical than things industrial design, but usually is closely allied with Industrial Design that may not include the intellectual aspects of marketing definition and styling.

Design Engineer (another name for Product Designer or Product Design Engineer)

Mechanical Designer (another name for Design Engineer)

Mechanical Engineer, (M.E) Can do the math related to structural design, mechanisms, gears, and often has parallel training to industrial design, embracing the creative tools and processes of industrial designers and engineer alike. Expert Convergent Thinker.

Physical Engineer (P.E.) Can do the math, has the legal stamp to prove it, can keep all the rest out of legal peril by approving a design as per public safety. Can do all the other engineering stuff too. Expert Convergent Thinker.

24th Sep '11, 02:44
That is a good question.

According to the Texas board of professional engineers, the practice of engineering includes design. On a regular basis, a publication is sent out that gives examples of people who have been fined for breaking the laws and rules concerning the practice of engineering. Some of these fines go to individuals offering engineering services when they are not licensed PE's (Professional Engineers).

It sounds like Industrial Design may fall right on the border line of engineering in showing the overall concept. For example an industrial designer may develop the concept of a ladder and show what it looks like but an engineer is needed to determine what material is required to withstand the loads that will be applied to each step and to test the ladder confirming it conforms to industry standards.

Michael Davis
25th Sep '11, 22:54
Asking an industrial designer to show what a ladder looks like precludes that the industrial designer has some idea as to how it works, material strength, physical structure, mechanical component and fastening methodology etc., which would assume one of two things: A ladder requires an engineer to tell the designer what to draw or the industrial designer has engineering knowledge, enough to design the ladder. If the industrial design profession was only the act of sketching, the world would be a much darker place indeed.

Consider that the designer has engineering knowledge enough to design the ladder, but the state of Texas requires an engineers stamp to validate the design for production and resale. Do you not think that an industrial designer in business for himself to build ladders, would not then hire a P.E. to validate the design with an P.E. stamp to allow the product to then be built and sold to the public.

I would love the opportunity to sue crap out of the State of Texas for trying to tell me I can't design ladders. It is the act of selling the design service by claiming to be a professional engineer (i.e. with a stamp) that would be illegal, not the act of selling a design for a ladder, just so long as the industrial designer explains that he is not a P.E. and that the design may require an engineering approval to validate the design in the state of Texas.

Keep in mind that as in engineering, industrial design has many different modes of performance as created by the vast variety of industrial design schools out there offering different levels of engineering training in the degree process.

You might want to read the wiki listing here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_Engineer