Industrial design is a process of design applied to products that are manufactured through techniques of mass production. Its key characteristic is that design is separated from manufacture: the creative act of determining and defining a product's form takes place in advance of the physical act of making a product, which consists purely of repeated, often automated, replication. It is this that distinguishes industrial design from craft-based design, where the form of the product is determined by the product's creator at the time of its creation.
All industrial products are the result of a design process, but the nature of this process can take many forms: it can be conducted by an individual or a large team; it can emphasise intuitive creativity or calculated scientific decision-making; and it can be influenced by factors as varied as materials, production processes, business strategy and prevailing social, commercial or aesthetic attitudes. The role of an industrial designer is to create and execute design solutions for problems of form, usability, physical ergonomics, marketing, brand development, and sales.
Industrial design can overlap significantly with engineering design, and in different countries the boundaries of the two concepts can vary, but in general engineering focuses principally on functionality or Utility of Products whereas industrial design focuses principally on aesthetic and user-interface aspects of products. In many jurisdictions this distinction is effectively defined by credentials and/or licensure required to engage in the practice of engineering. "Industrial design" as such does not overlap much with the engineering sub-discipline of industrial engineering, except for the latter's sub-specialty of ergonomics.
The first use of the term "industrial design" is often attributed to the industrial designer Joseph Claude Sinel in 1919 (although he himself denied this in interviews), but the discipline predates 1919 by at least a decade. Christopher Dresser is considered the world's first industrial designer. Industrial design's origins lie in the industrialization of consumer products. For instance the Deutscher Werkbund, founded in 1907 and a precursor to the Bauhaus, was a state-sponsored effort to integrate traditional crafts and industrial mass-production techniques, to put Germany on a competitive footing with England and the United States.
The earliest use of the term may have been in The Art Union, A monthly Journal of the Fine Arts, 1839:
“Dyce’s report to the Board of Trade on foreign schools of Design for Manufactures. Mr Dyces official visit to France, Prussia and Bavaria for the purpose of examining the state of schools of design in those countries will be fresh in the recollection of our readers. His report on this subject was ordered to be printed some few months since, on the motion of Mr Hume.”
“The school of St Peter, at Lyons was founded about 1750 for the instruction of draftsmen employed in preparing patterns for the silk manufacture. It has been much more successful than the Paris school and having been disorganized by the revolution, was restored by Napoleon and differently constituted, being then erected into an Academy of Fine Art: to which the study of design for silk manufacture was merely attached as a subordinate branch. It appears that all the students who entered the school commence as if they were intended for artists in the higher sense of the word and are not expected to decide as to whether they will devote themselves to the Fine Arts or to Industrial Design, until they have completed their exercises in drawing and painting of the figure from the antique and from the living model. It is for this reason, and from the fact that artists for industrial purposes are both well paid and highly considered (as being well instructed men) that so many individuals in France engage themselves in both pursuits.”
The practical draughtsman's book of industrial design by Jacques-Eugène Armengaud was printed in 1853.[further explanation needed]
Robert Lepper helped to establish one of the country's first industrial design degree programs at Carnegie Institute of Technology.