You can study very practical applications at the university level such as Industrial Design. Coursework and an apprenticeship will take you to a career that is always in demand and challenges one’s creativity and ingenuity in the process. It takes great skill to do good work whether it be a bicycle, a chair, or a hairdryer.
Industrial design has been around since the first toaster, iron, and stove were invented. Mass products utilitarian objects may not look aesthetic today, but much thought went into their appearance as well as function. Now fancy words like ergonomics and industrial engineering have come into play. A whole field of study teams applied art and science. Manufactured consumer products depend on well-conceived styles and methods of execution. Cost of materials is factored in at the very beginning stage.
While products become dated (referring to small handheld devices as well as larger kitchen appliances like refrigerators and washer/dryer sets), they also are kept for long periods of time. As a result, the lure of a new design weighs heavily on consumers. To spend or not to spend, when you have a perfectly working item? State of the art operation is a plus in this case. Research is always being conducted on household needs and how to cut through practicality to make impulse purchasing a real possibility.
The role of an industrial designer is therefore important in keeping the appliance economy on a roll. Colors have replaced chrome in the best hand mixers and even some of the latest bread machines while stainless steel has replaced colors in stoves and refrigerators. It is all about trends. Housewives used to want avocado-schemed kitchens with matching tile and now crave only bland gray granite and stainless steel everything. Marketing often dictates industrial design decisions, not the other way around.
The design process has come a long way from the drafting table and good lighting. Computer skills are the only new requirement along with a good aesthetic sense and solid engineering training. (CAD programs and 3-D software.) Sketching takes on a whole new meaning. Every appliance has its difficulties in maintaining optimal performance. Breakdown is the bane of any brand’s stellar reputation. Comparative product research is a must before undertaking any task. Tested applications make ease of use possible and not the result of trial and error. A prototype is developed and evaluated extensively before millions are produced without flaws.
Getting up to speed can result in a university degree on the bachelor’s or master’s level. Whether a university grants them in the College of Fine Arts or Liberal Arts depends upon the individual programs. It is a hybrid field of study bridging many disciplines.
Archetypical designs like the Eames chair and the VW Beetle have given Industrial Design a good name. Apple knows this only too well. Competition for the best looking smart phone is an ongoing obsession. Even little changes make people buy more. They wait in line for the latest and greatest. If designers can make more products that are fads by nature, their work will not have been in vain.