Are we entering a new chapter of Industrial Design? Pt. 1

By Niall McRiner

To celebrate World Industrial Design Day on June 29th, an online campaign has been launched to contribute a new definition of Industrial Design under the hashtag #renewID. Today in 2015, what does it mean to say ‘Industrial Design’ or are we even to use the term at all?

Industrial Design was a discipline born over a century ago in an era where industrial mass-produced manufacturing encapsulated the latest new and exciting technology.

French sociologist and philosopher, Jean Baudrillard stated that “architecture is the mixture of nostalgia and extreme anticipation.” I believe this to be a perfect description of modern Industrial Design. That is, if we understand nostalgia to be the act of learning from previous design intent and anticipation to be the pathway to almost every human emotion.

Industrial Design is a nod to our past and a lens into our future.

With this in mind, Echo have outlined 5 major aspects that will inform our new vision of Industrial Design:

1. Big business will Embrace Design (not forgetting the brand)

Design-centric business is on the rise. It can generate growth and deliver the complete package for a brand. Integrated Industrial Design solutions will be vital in delivering a delightful brand experience.

Robotic, lifeless, albeit beautiful objects, are soon to be a thing of the past. More stories will be told through physical design and this will help express the soul of a brand better than ever.

2. Professional Status

Industrial Design of the future will have an increasingly complex contribution to human progress extending its influence out to economic, social, cultural and even political paradigms. The well-respected discipline could then be formally regulated, earning its “professional” status alongside its Architecture cousin.

Protected and promoted, design will now return as a roadmap to shape our future. It will become globally understood as a powerful tool in managing businesses and brands.

3. Create Systems

Industrial Design was traditionally labeled as a siloed discipline responsible for refining and defining tangible, manufactured objects.

Now, one of the biggest challenges for the creative world is to link everything and everyone through unique and engaging systems. The ‘new’ Industrial Designer has a multi-faceted view and will sit at the forefront of how brand touch-points can connect products, digital services and immersive experiences.

4. Retain the Humanity

Big data allows ergonomists, strategists and engineers to quantify, ensuring  trusted and supported decision-making. However, it is qualitative reactions to design that creates magic and generates the consumer’s love for a brand.

The role of Industrial Design in the 21st century will be to understand and absorb information without letting the human story get lost in the data.

5. Consumer Access vs The Relevance of a Designer

With the rise of traceable foods, artisanal craft and readily available technologies such as domestic 3D printers, consumers have a closer relationship to their brands and products than ever before.

There will come a moment when consumer and designer are perceived to overlap; everyone will be a ‘designer'. Understanding this overlap as well as how skill sets and knowledge can be combined, will be invaluable for delivering qualified solutions.


We consider rather that the opportunity lies not with the redefining of the term ‘Industrial Design’, but the outright superseding of the phrase itself.

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