A fellow industrial designer told me the other day he got the feeling that MCAD vendors are doing everything they can to convince their market prospects that they can do all their own ID using the latest MCAD software capabilities. Thus, these same folks will not have to pay for an "expensive industrial designer."
In fact, this same gentleman said a rep from an unnamed MCAD vendor said exactly that during a recent sales meeting. "Seems to me they are conveniently forgetting about true creative ability blended with aesthetic sensitivity," my peer reported.
To say these comments hit home with me is an understatement. And, as was proven by the aforementioned overzealous sales rep, three myths remain in industry that deserve immediate busting.
First, and perhaps most important of the myths, is that anyone can do industrial design. After all, it's just about styling, right? Wrong. Not everyone can design.
Industrial design is a whole lot more than meets the eye. It takes into account how things work and what the target audience needs — with an eye turned to their expectations. Customer psychology plays a huge part. Industrial design also has to do with responsibility — to one's customers as well as to the environment. Safety issues are very important. And form doesn't always follow function. Sometimes a product cries out for an artistic re-imagining to reinvigorate it and save it from sheer market boredom.
Industrial designers are trained from the start to incorporate all these different considerations in the finished product. I'm not saying engineers can't do it, but ID is not usually where their competencies lie.
I enjoy being an industrial designer. My art teachers didn't like how meticulous and quantifying I was. Likewise, engineers have a hard time appreciating my artistic eye. I am neither. I am both. A good industrial designer bridges the gap between the two camps.
The second myth is that ID is much too expensive. But it's not when you consider that a product's design will make or break its success.
It's the old question: which would you rather have in your driveway, a Porsche or a Ford? Both get you from point A to point B, but one has so much more appeal than the other. If you make a product that works, costs next to nothing, and is easy to build, but no one wants, what have you actually accomplished? But when you invest in some good ID and get a design that satisfies all the client's needs plus ignites the imagination of your customers, you have a moneymaker on your hands. Industrial design is almost always worth far more than what you pay for it.
Finally, MCAD companies aren't really trying to replace people. Lots of folks say that, and I know programs are making it much easier to do without people who used to be dedicated to such things as drafting, FEA, and ID, but — at their roots — these programs are only tools. Only in the right hands can they can do all the things they advertise.
Though engineers can perform all these tasks, most will never be able to achieve the same quality results as a fully trained and dedicated person can — be it a drafter, an analyst, or an industrial designer.
I think what the MCAD companies are really trying to do is include all the tools necessary for getting a product from thought to retail. It stands to reason, then, that if everyone in that chain is using the same software there will be a superior workflow. It isn't about getting rid of people. It's about empowering them. I would be very wary of the wisdom of anyone who claims otherwise.
Mike Hudspeth, IDSA, is a senior designer for a global medical company and has been using a wide range of CAD products for more than 20 years. He, his wife, two daughters, and their cats live outside of St. Louis, MO. Send him an e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.