7 Paths For Creative People in Industrial Design

Are you a creative person?

Ever thought about working in a factory? Probably not, well believe it or not there are some amazing and often overlooked opportunities where people can feed their creative side.

Design is nothing new, from drawings penned on the walls of a cave in the mountains of France to the back of napkins in a restaurant over lunch. And the future of design isn’t going anywhere soon, because the one thing no computer will be able to do in our lifetime is to create, they can copy and compile but not create original design.

No computer can create a song like ‘Battle Scars’ or a drawing like Emi Nakajima does (at least not yet). However a designer can most certainly take a concept and bring it life in a 2d or 3d drawing. They can even simulate real life through computer modeling as you’ll see in this article.

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1. CAD Designer

CAD stands for ‘Computer Aided Design’, which is where you draft a mechanical or electrical using a computer. This is usually the first step into the creative world of Industrial Design.

It’s actually a good place to start, because it has historical significance in the career. Because in the old days this level of design was the highest level, in addition this is the largest level in the design field employing literally millions and millions worldwide. You will always have a future with this specific experience.

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2. HMI Designer

HMI stands for ‘Human Machine Interface‘, which is where a creative and technically proficient professional creates, develops and programs computer screens used to control machines and computer networks.

There are two ways to control machines, using manual push buttons or by using a computer screen. Well, if you plan on using a computer screen than you need someone to create the screen which is the machine and human interface piece of the HMI acronym.

These types of creatives are used to create everything from bank ATM screens to car radio screens to huge screens in the mission control room in a Hollywood movie or in real life at NASA. Someone designs them, maybe you could.

3. Machine Designer

Machine Design is where someone, or more likely a team of creatives, design an entire machine. From the smallest bolt to the motor to the machine logos. It usually takes an extensive amount of time to complete a project from start to finish.

But, it’s an interesting experience consisting of sourcing the hardware to be used in building the machine, so that you can import the 3d drawings into your project file as you build the machine.

And if there isn’t a 3d model of a part that is going to be used on the machine, for example; maybe it’s being fabricated.

Then you need to design it and add it to your project file, and slowly over time you and your team of creative professionals literally build a machine.

4. Electronics Designer

Electronics Design is a specific path of design which focuses on designing ‘PCB’ or Printed Circuit Boards and other electronic components. It’s similar yet uniquely different to the other types of design.

The components are different, but in many other ways it’s the same as other design projects. However, knowing electronics and how the components work together is helpful. With that being said, you don’t need to be an electronic engineer to be an electronics draftsman. And, that goes for the other types of projects you may asked to create, however it helps.

5. Product Designer

Product Design is someone who designs products that you see in your local supermarket. May you’re asked to design the container the product is sold in.

You may need to work with manufacturing engineers who design the molds used to manufacture the plastic bottle you’ve designed.

 There is a distinct difference and yet a similarity to graphic designers. Everyone in the design field does some kind of graphic work but that doesnt make them a professional product designer.

Product design is used by those who take the drawing and build molds and other manufacturing processes to make that drawing come to life.

You may work with engineers from every field, engineers who are building the plastic mold to create the plastic container in your drawing to the project team building a machine to manufacture your product to a controls engineer trying to program that machine for your plastic bottle.

6. Simulation Designer

Simulation Design is typically the first step to prototyping a product or machine which is costly and or planned to be mass produced.

It’s the complex art used to verify and validate the intended function of a project under development.

Simulation models are generally much more complex than other types of design, as they are built with sets of complex equations representing the behavior of the machine, for example; how it predicted to work in the physical world.

The complex mathematics are based on the extensive variables, at the start of the project the simulation and mathematics are based on assumptions.

Once enough variables are tested and data is created a conclusive solution can be delivered to the customer via a true to life simulation model.

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7. Freelance Designer

Freelance Design gives you the ability to choose which projects you want to work on. You can work remotely, you can work as a design specialist or as part of a team that’s spread out across the globe working on a project that spans years to complete or you can do freelance as a part time gig.

What makes this path on our list is the flexibility to work on any one or all of the other paths listed above.

In addition, keep in mind many of the professionals who work in the paths listed above likely will work on various projects which include a mix of some or all of the above as a common course in their work.

Which makes having a side gig all the more likely, and the side gig may at some point grow into a full-time gig.

As companies look to pull back the cost of labor especially expensive designers, hiring as needed professionals will become a growing option to managers looking to cut costs on their projects.

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Some Final Tips

So, if you’re a creative person looking to express yourself, or you’re a creative with technical prowess you can find a home in the modern world of Industrial design.

More importantly don’t let anything hold you back. Because you don’t HAVE to have earned a college degree to get started, all that is needed in most instances is to be very creative, in love with design, and have the passion to continue to learn. 

It also helps to be a good team player and being willing to work to project scopes.

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