Major Insights: Industrial Design

Looking for a hands-on program where you envision, conceptualize and create functional and aesthetically pleasing products for consumers? Consider Industrial Design, defined as “the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” Industrial design is a collaborative profession combining aspects of marketing, engineering, graphics, sales, psychology and more in a creative environment that encourages innovation. Items designed by industrial designs are vast and diverse, ranging from furniture to cars and kitchen appliances to product displays and packaging.

Students in the Industrial Design program at Auburn University learn skills such as technical drawing, marker rendering, computer aided design, hand sketching, ergonomics, and the manufacturing process. As a student you will not just be designing products for practice, you will be collaborating with well-known companies who partner with Auburn University to have ID students develop new products for the consumer market. Companies who partner with the Industrial Design program include Emerson Tool Company, Broan-Nutone, and Microplane.

The program is studio based and can be very time demanding so students need to be skilled in time management and self motivation to remain on task and meet project deadlines. If you are interested in learning more about this major and career, visit the Industrial Design department, the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction, or the Industrial Designers of America.

The Nitty Gritty (from Occupational Outlook Handbook):
Nature of the Work:
  • Combines the fields of art, business, and engineering to design the products people use every day.
  • Designers are responsible for the style, function, quality, and safety of almost every manufactured good.
  • Designers specialize in one particular product category, such as automobiles and other transportation vehicles, appliances, technology goods, medical equipment, furniture, toys, tools and construction equipment, or housewares.

Work Environment:

  • Designers employed by manufacturing establishments, large corporations, or design firms generally work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings.
  • Designers in smaller design consulting firms, or those who freelance, may work under a contract to do specific tasks or designs. They frequently adjust their workday to suit their clients' schedules and deadlines, meeting with the clients evenings or weekends when necessary. Consultants and self-employed designers tend to work longer hours and in smaller, more congested, environments. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines.


  • A bachelor's degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering is required for most entry-level commercial and industrial design jobs.
  • Many programs also include internships at design or manufacturing firms.


  • Median annual wage-and-salary wages for commercial and industrial designers were $57,350 in May 2008. (Middle 50%: $41,550-$76,700; Lowest 10%: < $31,400; Highest 10%: > $97,770)
Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, I received my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Auburn.

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