In the past year many of our projects have involved liaising with industry specialists who have specific skills in niche areas, for example material science or electronics. The demands of technical projects means that we have had to adopt a collaborative approach, project managing the final design whilst ensuring each individual aspect of the design is complete.
As one of our projects reaches the end of initial development, we have been discussing the role of Industrial Designers as both specialists and generalists. Here are our thoughts.
In product development, specialists tend to zoom in on certain areas where absolute expertise is required, such as when a particular type of material is crucial to product performance or a specific process is required for manufacture. These people provide a wealth of knowledge in their field and rarely digress off their specialism.
A designer with a more generalist approach tends to work well within the wider picture, controlling how each element of the design will come together, whilst being aware of how it is perceived, where it will be used or the emotional attachments to the product. Throughout product development, it is important to have a generalist overview, with the ability to call upon specialists in certain areas.
Where do we as Industrial Designers fit in to this?
The role of an Industrial Designer is to be a specialist in the art of being a generalist. We bring features, benefits and components together into a desirable, usable and functional product. Successful product development is about collaboration, about collating knowledge and bringing different experiences and specialisms to the table, for the purpose of creating a better product. Essentially we are required to know a little about a great deal and a great deal about a specialist area; good design.