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The Difference Between Industrial Design and Product Design


When it comes to product design and industrial design, there is often some confusion surrounding what these two areas of design entail. Even those in the industry get confused since the current issue with product design is that it seems to have been taken over and is now used more for software, apps and the user interfaces side of digital products. It is not just about the definitions, further exploration into each area reveals contrasting yet complimentary processes that must be understood to appreciate their distinctions.

In this article, we will look at both fields side-by-side – uncovering exactly how they differ so you can make sure your project objectives are perfectly aligned with the right type of design.

Industrial Design

Industrial design has come a long way since the beginning of the industrial revolution. From cars to clothing and all manners of manufactured goods, it is thanks to these pioneering designers that we now have an industry dedicated specifically towards streamlining mass production processes for those same products – leading us ultimately to our current standard of living.

As technology advances, so does industrial design, with a contemporary design incorporating artistic elements and ergonomics to create high-quality global output that satisfies customers’ needs on multiple levels.

Taking inspiration from engineering and artistry, industrial designers craft the items we see every day with both affordability and aesthetics in mind. Their creative vision combines purposeful design with improvements to aesthetics and functionality, appealing to everyday consumers. It is no surprise that we see products improved regularly and re-released.

What makes a great industrial designer?

Great industrial designers unlock the creative process using methodologies such as user research, comparative product analysis, designing of models, prototyping and testing. The focus lies on technical concepts, products and processes, encompassing engineering, usefulness and market placement.

Product Design

Product design is usually seen as the successor of industrial design, but in fact, it is much more complex than that. Product design encompasses many meanings, making it difficult to determine a single definition.

To account for this complexity, two definitions are used – one describing what product design is to the actual product itself and another outlining its process related to said product.

Product design (noun): A product’s properties consist of more than just looks and functionality – the combination of aesthetic, functional, and holistic properties creates an all-encompassing experience.

Product design (process): Product design is an exciting and innovative field, integral to creating products that enhance our lives. Product designers work to conceptualise ideas, combining artistry with science and technology to turn them into physical products.

With today’s digital tools available, new opportunities are unlocked for product creators who can now conceptually envision their designs on screen before constructing them in physical form – pushing boundaries like never before.

What makes a great product designer?

A product designer’s mission is to make an impact on the world by creating new products that are both helpful and innovative for the masses. A product designer will take into account how users interact with items, potential issues around faulty products, as well as ways in which they could be improved – it is all a part of being a product designer – striving for the best possible result.

Differences Between Industrial Design and Product Design

Industrial design is a broader area of expertise than many people realise. It is all about creating product specifications, designs and finishes that make products attractive, viable and user-friendly – the groundwork for any successful product.

On the other hand, product designers then come in to refine these ideas and their specifications further into something tangible. Put simply, product designers:

  • Focus on the detailed design of a product
  • Take the solution to manufacturers and customers
  • Ensure the functioning of products according to their specifications and applicable standards

While industrial designers:

  • Have a greater focus on the product development lifecycle
  • Focus on the aesthetics of a product and its manufacturing
  • Widely ensures a product design meets customer expectations and its suitability for mass production
Industrial design vs product design

Industrial design and product design share a common goal of creating or refining products, but with new technology and societal changes continuously reshaping the definitions of these two specialities, it can be tricky to tell where each field ends. Keeping up with all the advances is challenging but will help you effectively distinguish between industrial design and product design.

If you are looking for product designers to bring your ideas to life, get in touch with us today to find out how.

About Conficio

Make Together

Conficio Product Design is a design consultancy based in Wilton, Wiltshire. Our team of engineers are dedicated to supporting both established corporations and small tech start-ups to develop exciting and bespoke products. Conficio will undertake the detailed components to your design whilst ensuring that your original idea is adhered to, we work with you to realise your goals. We require our clients to be invested in their design to ensure that we can Make Together.

Find out more on or drop us a line at


// Meaning: From con- (“with, together”) +‎ faciō (“do, make”).

// Verb: To make together, prepare, construct, produce, do thouroughly, complete, accomplish, finish, execute.

// Pronunciation: Con - fee - see - o


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