This week on Ingenuity Insights, we delve deep into our Industrial Design Manager’s distinctive approach to developing advanced technology products. Join us as we uncover the strategies and insights behind the creation of innovative solutions.
What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in industrial design? Could you share some insights into what drew you to this field and how your passion has evolved over time?
Like most industrial designers I’ve always been curious about how things are made, and I’m always thinking about opportunities where a product could make life just a little (or a lot) better. I was interested in art, design, photography and architecture in school, but had never heard of industrial design until I came across some student work by chance while looking into studying architecture. The opportunities for industrial designers seemed endless, and it was the perfect mix of technical engineering and art, and I could make things with my hands instead of reading textbooks! I could clearly see how an industrial designer could bring others joy through their work, and improve people’s lives, which really resonated with me. This continues to be something that motivates me in my work today.
Can you walk us through your design process when approaching a new industrial design project? What are the key steps and considerations you take into account?
It’s always different. From spending most of my career working in consultancies, I’ve learned that no project is the same, and you have to adapt your process somewhat to suit the brief, budget, and customer’s expectations. That being said, I think I take a pretty standard approach to a new brief – First, I think it’s important to take a team-based approach, and ensure that communication lines are clear. Once this has been established I try to immerse myself in the customer’s world by doing a tonne of research, and try my best to see the problem from the user’s perspective. Then, sketch as much as possible. I’m pretty old-school in this regard, but I feel that hand-sketching is still the fastest and most effective way to generate and communicate ideas. From here the design will start to take shape with regular comms with the team and client. The next step is to jump into CAD and things start to get real. Usually several concepts will make it into CAD. This is where we can add detail and refine each concept, producing rendered images for evaluation. The final concept direction is usually a combination of features drawn from 2 or 3 concepts. The team will then spend some time to generate some photorealistic images communicating key features, styling, and aesthetics. Once the design direction is approved by the client, it’s onto detailing, prototyping, testing, and production preparation.
Where do you draw inspiration for your design concepts and ideas? Are there specific sources, experiences, or philosophies that consistently influence your creative process?
It’s hard to pin down exact sources for inspiration, but the obvious one that comes to mind is friends, family, and my peers. I work with a very talented team at Ingenuity and it’s a privilege to be able to bounce ideas around with people from so many different professional and cultural backgrounds. Much of my inspiration also comes from the natural world, travel, and experiencing other cultures.
How do you balance functionality and aesthetics in your designs? Could you give an example of a project where this balance was particularly crucial?
People often refer to form vs function as competing elements of a design, however I see them as one in the same, and in many instances one will inform or accentuate the other. With many of our projects, functionality and usability seemingly takes precedence – whether it’s a mechanical or electrical function. After all, this is usually what makes a new product idea novel or exciting. The common line after long discussions about the functionality of a product with a client is “oh, but it has to look good too.” The aesthetic appeal of a design should never be overlooked. It can’t be an afterthought, so it needs to always be part of the discussion, even if it doesn’t take centre stage early on in a project.
It can significantly affect the appeal of the product to the user, and can ultimately determine the success of the product. It is often the difference between a good product, and a great product.
The Hovermap ST project had some pretty strict performance requirements, and being our client’s flagship product, it was important that the aesthetic communicated the technical complexity, and ruggedised construction of the device. The product is an evolution of the previous model, so while we had some styling cues to work with, it also had to be something different enough to reflect the groundbreaking technical improvements of the device from the first-generation product. The styling of the device draws inspiration from the armour of an armadillo mixed with a stealth bomber, using a lightweight, impact resistant polymer blend to provide durability. Although the ribbed sections seem to be an aesthetic feature, they in fact reduce large surfaces prone to cracking and provide high points to absorb impact when dropped from a height.
Industrial design often involves creating products for a wide range of industries. How do you adapt your design process to suit the unique needs and requirements of different sectors?
I think to be an effective industrial designer in multiple industries at once, you need to have a sense of humility, and the ability to learn quickly from experts in each relevant field. A robust design process can easily adapt to a multitude of industries and large variety of product types, however the designer must also have an adaptable mindset, and be able to see things through the eyes of different users and customers, for the resulting design to be successful.
What aspects do you enjoy the most about collaborating with clients on industrial design projects? Are there specific moments or outcomes that stand out to you as particularly rewarding?
I love working with the wide range of customers that we have at Ingenuity. The amazing ideas and motivated mindsets that some of our clients have is inspirational to say the least. There are a few moments on every project that are special. One in particular is when a clear front runner concept evolves from the sketch pad or CAD model, and when we share it with the client and their eyes light up. You can tell you’re changing the way they see the project by bringing something new to the table. Often their feedback from that moment helps to solidify the concept and we start working together towards a clear vision. That moment can be quite unifying. Firing up the first functional prototypes and interacting with them alongside the client can also be very rewarding. By far the most satisfying is however when you experience someone using the end product. This signifies that the project was successful and that we played a part in helping the client bring their product to the market, and in turn contributing to their success.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in design. Can you discuss some of the sustainable practices and materials you incorporate into your projects?
I’m a firm believer that it’s our responsibility as industrial designers to pursue and implement sustainable manufacturing practices in the products we design wherever we can. As a consultant it’s our job to inform and advise our clients of how they can develop more environmentally friendly products. Unfortunately, not all companies are adequately incentivised to use materials and processes that are sustainable (or penalised for doing the opposite). For there to be any real change, I believe that there should be tighter controls on companies manufacturing and selling products to ensure they are following sustainable practices. This will only come from change in legislation, but until then there are things we can do to leave as little footprint on the environment as possible. These include design for disassembly, and appropriate education for the end user to recycle or dispose of the product at the end of its life responsibly. The use of recycled, biodegradable, compostable, or bio-based materials is becoming more commonplace, however some materials can still be hard to get your hands on, or are price-prohibitive. Quality is always front-of-mind when we’re designing a product, and this can also play a role in sustainability. A high quality product is more likely to have a long life, extending it’s life cycle and preventing it from ending up in land-fill. If we apply some, or all of these practices to our design then it’s a step in the right direction.
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