No matter where you’re sitting or what you’re doing, take a moment to look around. Whether you’re at an office desk, in the comfort of your living room, or at a bustling coffee shop, you’re surrounded by objects that designers and engineers spent months — even years — working on. Those individuals who specialize in the field of industrial design are shaping the face of everyday life as we know it.
Industrial design is defined as “the professional practice of designing products, devices, objects, and services used by millions of people around the world every day.” It plays a vital role in the creation of everything from furniture and basic tools to artificial intelligence (AI) and the minute technology that fill our aircraft, cellphones, and vehicles. Considering the fact that our country is constantly advancing and moving forward, it is only by keeping up on current (and predicting future) trends that the U.S. can continue to provide products that are both relevant and practical to consumers. Let’s take a look at six trends that industrial designers should keep in mind as this new decade begins.
- Emotion matters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 32.5 million businesses in the United States. With so much competition, simply producing a well-crafted product isn’t enough; you must capture the hearts of your consumers as well as their minds. Customizable options allow buyers to feel a personal connection to the product and might just make the difference between a purchase at your company versus a competitor’s.
- Energy efficiency is vital. We are living in an age of awareness, especially in terms of energy use and waste. If your consumers are paying attention to the impact a specific product could have on the environment (or on their wallets), you’re going to want to make sure that every step of the production process — as well as the final product itself — is energy efficient.
- Prepare for Big Data. In terms of the Internet of Things (IoT), big changes — and big data — are on the horizon. Approximately 50 billion devices are expected to be connected to the internet in 2020; at the same time, 5G networks are being implemented across the globe. This means that your internet-enabled product will need to be able to handle the sheer speeds (estimated to reach 100 gigabytes per second at its height) 5G offers.
- Consider the Cloud. Computer-aided design (CAD) has played a crucial role in industrial design for decades, although it is changing in one major way; rather than each designer or engineer working on their own and then compiling their work down the line, cloud enablement will allow all members of the team to collaborate instantaneously. Changes and updates occur in real-time, meaning the work is completed significantly faster.
- Computer-aided engineering is on the rise. Also known as CAE, computer-aided engineering permits designers to virtually reproduce and optimize their product; previously only available to big-budget manufacturing companies (mostly in the automation or aviation industries), CAE can reduce errors and allows for easier testing, faster validation, and better prototyping.
- Tools are becoming more advanced. CAD and CAE have been on the scene for a while, but virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are soon to be joining their ranks. Add in the power of new programs such as Google Material Design, Subform, and Figma, and you’re able to better understand how consumers will interact with your product.
Industrial design is essential to the function of society, whether it be ours here in the U.S. or another nation on the other side of the globe. If specialized designers and engineers are able to continue to produce goods that create the best possible user experience (by integrating all aspects of form, fit, and function), the sky is truly the limit.