How To Be A Design Entrepreneur: Three Tips For Running Your Own Industrial Design Business

how to be design entrepreneur run industrial designer business

Let’s start with a solid definition of industrial design (ID) and what sets it apart from other design methodologies. The Industrial Designers Society of America explains that industrial design is applied when the item being developed is going to be mass produced and expected to be distributed and used by a large number of entities. Other design disciplines such a mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, etc. are more generic in nature. Their output can be used for either custom products or high volume product production. Industrial engineers not only have to concentrate on the manufacturability of the design, that is the ease of manufacture, but the usability of the end product. 

Keep The Customer In Mind 

A successful industrial design company will begin and end design with one key thing in mind: the customer. This must be a strategic decision before the first sketch is drawn or prototype built; from ideation through actual customer use. Centering the company’s mission statement around this philosophy will keep everyone mindful of the purpose of every design. 

Integration Is Important, Too 

Integration! Industrial design engineering will lead, but several other disciplines within the company during the process, including mechanical, electrical, and manufacturing engineering. Outside of engineering, purchasing, inventory, marketing, quality, and vendors. Successful integration of these various actors is the key to smooth product design and launch. Time from design to product launch or order to delivery is the metric by which the company will be measured by its customers. Integration leads to the next important tip. Another key to a successful Industrial Design firm is its ability to incorporate marketing strategy into the design and manufacturing process. Following the mission of always keeping in mind that the end product is for a particular use and user, marketing can be part of how the product looks and feels. When it comes to new product design, decisions such as color, shape, and feel are made by designers, input from marketing and even branding experts can be extremely valuable. It is their job to know what the customer likes and what will sell. 

Project Management Is The Tie That Binds 

Cohesive project management is a necessary ingredient for integration. Having the right individual(s) in that role can make or break a project. This person must shepherd the design through the maze, interfacing with each discipline. The Project Management Institute defines a Project Manager as an “...organized, passionate and goal-oriented [person] who understand[s] what projects have in common, and their strategic role in how organizations succeed, learn and change.” Today there are tools that help project managers with various aspects of a design effort. One of the most difficult parts is keeping track of inventory during both the prototyping and stages. 

Luckily there is excellent inventory tracking software available that makes this job much easier and more accurate. Even with new tools, the Project manager must be able to lead a matrix organization. In a matrix organization, the Project Manager is lead. Employees as assigned to the discipline where they are needed on an as needed basis. During that time they report to a Project Manager for that project. They move back to their department when they are not needed. It is a borrowed- resource arrangement. Managing a matrix can be challenging, but being able to do so is a very important skill. 

These are only three elements to remember when running an industrial design firm and being a successful industrial design entrepreneur. However, if you’re always mindful of keeping the customer up front, strive for seamless integration of internal departments and resources, and develop or acquire strong project management, you will be well on your way to the success you hope to achieve.

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