Industrial Designer: Three Career Paths For Perfect Products

custom metal parts, custom plastic parts, product development, prototyping

Statistics show that there will be significant future growth in the field of industrial design. High job security and economic stability are promised in this area of an industrial designer. Additionally, design thinking, which is the foundation of industrial design, is evolving into the key to finding innovative solutions to challenges both inside and outside of businesses.
We are committed to understanding the benefits and opportunities of industrial design in order to support the growth of our manufacturers and even the manufacturing industry. As a manufacturer of custom plastic and metal parts products, we are very concerned about the development trends and innovations of industrial design.
Following that, we’ll talk about the three most popular paths to a career in industrial design.
Plastic Product Development

Industrial Designer: a Promising Career Path

While numerous educational institutions offer dedicated industrial design programs, some colleges provide a broader spectrum of degrees, including industrial design courses, aiming to furnish their graduates with a versatile skill set. Industrial designer, also known as product designer, shoulders the responsibility of conceiving and shaping an array of physical products, encompassing consumer goods, industrial machinery, automotive components, aerospace innovations, medical equipment, and various other tangible creations.

The role purview of industrial designer extends beyond the realms of design, delving into the domains of material procurement and manufacturing strategizing, involving cost analysis and process planning. Consequently, the job description of an industrial designer comprises a multifaceted blend of art, materials science, engineering, and an unwavering commitment to addressing consumer needs. The realm of industrial design offers a wealth of opportunities and multiple prospective career paths, making it a captivating field to venture into. However, the question arises: which path should you pursue?

Three predominant career paths beckon industrial designer:

  • In-House Designer at a Company
  • Freelancing as an Independent Designer or within a Design Studio
  • Creating a Product, Establishing a Company, and Venturing into Entrepreneurship

These industrial designer career paths each bear distinct characteristics, offering unique facets of personal fulfillment, contingent upon your individual goals and aspirations. Below, we delve into each industrial designer path, unravelling the varied considerations, challenges, and advantages associated with each.

Path 1: Embark on an In-House Design Career at a Company

A significant cohort of an industrial designer opts for enduring careers within corporate entities, securing salaried positions that often align with some of the world’s most successful companies. Consider renowned names such as Microsoft, Tesla, Nike, Sony, or prestigious design firms like IDEO and Whipsaw. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, their report on the state of industrial design in the U.S. reveals that the majority of salaried industrial designer find employment within the realms of manufacturing or professional, technical, or scientific services.

Pros of In-House Design Career

The merits of being an employee within a corporate framework, whether it be a Fortune 500 juggernaut or a fledgling startup, encompass:

  • A reliable salary and a comprehensive benefits package, along with a structured work schedule.
  • Opportunities for professional advancement, with potential career paths leading to managerial, directorial, vice-presidential, or even C-level executive roles.
  • The privilege of collaborating with some of the nation’s and the world’s premier companies.
  • The chance to channel your design prowess toward addressing intricate challenges in a specialized and concentrated manner.
  • The freedom to concentrate exclusively on design work, with no obligations concerning managerial responsibilities, manufacturing concerns, payroll matters, business development, and the like.

Challenges of In-House Design Career

However, this industrial designer path comes with its unique set of challenges:


  • Limited or no say in the selection of projects, as your project allocation is often dictated by the company.
  • Reduced flexibility in your daily responsibilities due to the necessity to adhere to the company’s prescribed processes and methodologies.
  • The products you design invariably belong to your employing company or client, necessitating adherence to the corporate framework—hence, constraining your creative flexibility in design.

Path 2: Freelance Designer

For those who value autonomy, crave flexibility, and relish the prospect of collaborating with a diverse array of clients, freelancing offers an avenue to harness your design talents while retaining control over your time and projects.

Research data underscores the increasing prevalence of freelance work, with a remarkable 36% of the workforce engaged in freelancing. As we journey into 2023 and beyond, the gig economy is poised for continued growth, with the expectation of a surge in these numbers. Whether you choose to function as an individual contributor within a design firm, serve as a consultant for a larger corporation, or operate your own design studio, freelancing confers upon you an unparalleled sense of liberation.

Pros of Freelance Designer

The merits of a freelance career encompass:

  • Mastery over your work schedule—dictating not only when you work but also where you work. Feel like embarking on a “workcation”? No problem!
  • Recognition as an esteemed designer, with the status of a consultant, bestowing you with full autonomy—no supervisors, only clients.
  • The latitude to engage with a plethora of diverse projects simultaneously or, if preferred, to restrict your commitments to one at a time, delivering the ultimate in versatility.
  • The opportunity to allocate your time to cater to your passions or personal commitments, attracting many parents who opt to transition from the corporate sphere to freelancing, as it grants them the precious gift of time to spend with their children.

Challenges of Freelance Designer

Nevertheless, freelancing carries its own set of challenges:

  • The responsibility of managing your invoicing and taxes, which, in all honesty, constitutes a considerable amount of unpaid labor.
  • The necessity to secure your own benefits (such as health insurance and retirement plans), or alternatively, to seek them through a spouse, domestic partner, or parent.
  • Engagement in the demanding world of business development, which demands an ability to withstand rejection.
  • Income fluctuations, with some months yielding substantially more than others.
  • Limited opportunities to manage a team or progress into executive roles unless you decide to establish your own firm.
  • The potential encounters with challenging clients, along with the demanding juggling act of handling multiple concurrent projects.
  • Wrestling with the intricacies of cash flow, as clients do not consistently settle payments on time, necessitating time-consuming efforts to follow up on unpaid invoices.

Path 3: Pioneering as an Entrepreneur

Should you harbor the ambition to chart your course while simultaneously identifying a market niche and crafting a product that caters to its demands, then the realm of entrepreneurship beckons. In most cases, this entails birthing a startup enterprise centered around your innovative creation, involving not only its manufacturing but also its marketing and sales endeavors. Alternatively, you may opt to inaugurate your very own design consultancy firm.

Pros of Entrepreneurship

The advantages of embarking on the entrepreneurial journey encompass:

  • The opportunity to accumulate invaluable experience as a CEO, all while remaining deeply immersed in the actual design process of your product.
  • Ownership of your very own enterprise, along with stewardship of your products.
  • The freedom to channel your creativity into devising distinct concepts and realizing them to fruition.

Challenges of Entrepreneurship

However, the pathway of entrepreneurship presents its own unique set of challenges:

  • The looming specter of failure, as despite its modernized landscape, running a startup remains a multifaceted, demanding, and inherently risky venture.
  • The meticulous handling of accounting, payroll management, and employee benefits, which can be labor-intensive due to legal obligations and tax regulations.
  • The intricate task of recruiting, overseeing, and retaining employees, a process that can be both time-consuming and emotionally draining.
  • The management of in-house manufacturing, shipping logistics, distribution networks, and other operational intricacies.
  • The quest for funding and the imperative task of devising a viable business model that yields profitability.

Industrial design stands as a thriving and expanding discipline, brimming with enticing prospects. To discern the path best aligned with your aspirations, begin by contemplating your foremost desires from your profession and envisaging your future role. Armed with your list of present and future objectives, undertake a comparative analysis against the merits and demerits delineated in this article to identify the course that best propels you toward your destination.

Subsequently, you embark on the laborious journey of translating your aspirations into reality, which entails crafting an exemplary portfolio, seeking financial counsel, identifying potential business collaborators, nurturing your marketing prowess, enrolling in courses to bolster your skill set, and devouring literature to enrich your knowledge. Networking becomes an invaluable tool to connect with individuals who can aid your journey.

Likewise, it’s prudent to acknowledge that careers of any nature seldom adhere to a linear trajectory. Numerous designers transition from full-time roles to establish their products and grow into entrepreneurial ventures or embark on years of freelancing prior to joining a design studio. The crux lies in maintaining an acute awareness of your present circumstances and your envisioned destination, paving the path for the requisite actions that propel you to your desired endpoint.

At Sungplastic

If you are an industrial designer who focuses on product design and expects or needs to complete product realization, we will be your best choice.
We have experienced designers and engineers, and advanced equipment and production shops and lines.
For customized prototypes, customized parts and products manufacturing, we are good at CNC machining, injection molding processing, 3D printing, die-casting, stamping, mold manufacturing, rapid prototyping, post-processing, assembly and packaging, and multiple additional services.
Our DFM analysis and high-quality and convenient services can help with product customization and manufacturing.

Working with us will result in perfect products. Looking forward to our more inspiration communication.

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