Jim Bleck, President, Bleck Design Group
Can industrial designers and engineers work together? Should they? Those are questions that are easier asked and answered today than a few years ago when the two disciplines didn't talk. Today, each recognizes the other's value. And when they work together, Bleck says, everyone, including the end customer, wins.
Are industrial designers and engineers working closer together? Yes. Companies now see the collaboration between the two as a sales advantage.
Why? What's changed? Many executives are seeing the recognition that good design is getting. Business Week, for example, has its design awards, and executives see that the attention from those awards can lead to more sales. Plus, there is a greater awareness of design today. There is also the fact that many engineers have worked with industrial designers, so they are getting used to having a closer relationship. Knowledge is increasing on both sides.
When does the collaboration work best? It works best when industrial designers are involved in projects from the beginning. Most problems occur when designers are called in too late. There are also times when opportunities for functional or aesthetic design improvements are blocked because engineering requirements are finalized before industrial designers get involved. In a recent project, engineers changed requirements without telling designers and that really slowed down the project.
So communication is critical. Yes. Industrial designers want more information, but often engineers who are under tremendous time pressures don't want to take the time to communicate. They want to focus on the immediate.
What are the differences in the ways designers and engineers approach a project? Designers and engineers both start their work by looking at the core of a product. But then, engineers work down into the details. Designers work up to the outside of the product as well as down to the details.
Do industrial designers get much information in school on engineering? They get a reasonable education, but not an extensive one. It's not much different from the case with engineers, who don't always get a lot of training in school on manufacturing. Designers should come to their jobs with aesthetic training and good computer skills, among others.
Are industrial designers generalists? As the profession has grown, it has gotten specialized. Now there are specialists in packaging, soft goods, athletics goods, and other niche areas. We are specialists in packaging. We design and enclose products for medical applications as well as others.
When dealing with companies, do you find that the "not invented here" syndrome is still around? We still see it, but not as much as before. Most often we see it when new people come into a company and decide they want to make their mark. We keep in mind that our customers know more about their customers than we do, and we emphasize a team approach.
Reach Bleck at firstname.lastname@example.org.