Product design involves creating or improvising a product. Product designers mainly work with or for manufacturing companies, including those dealing in automobiles, industrial products, consumer durables and telecommunication. Entrepreneurs do a wider spectrum of things while in the industry, work is “pre-programmed, part of a continuum,” says Amit Krishn Gulati, founder and director, Incubis.
What do they do?
They have designed the ‘Eggsoskeleton’ — a futuristic-looking headgear designed to reduce musculo-skeletal disorders and provide a clean “micro-environment” inside (the product) for coal miners who manually dig out fossil fuel… they’ve conjured up a sleek computer monitor with a skin design depicting Devanagri letters and the mouse-cum-scanner and text-recognition device… They truly are creativity personified.
Product designers aren’t people who just make cute-looking exhibition-variety items. They are required to innovate, enhance the utility of a product, and provide business solutions.
“Product design concerns itself with the design of objects and systems that affect the way we live, work and play,” explains Praveen Nahar, associate senior faculty, faculty of industrial design, and activity chairperson, Design Consultancy Services, National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. “It deals with form, function, colour, graphics, packaging safety and maintenance etc.”
Product design is a combination of technology, art and craft. Amit Krishn Gulati, founder and director, Incubis, New Delhi, says, “A product designer deals with, one, aesthetics, two, understanding people and their needs, and three, understanding current and emerging technology. He occupies a unique space at the intersection of these three. He is not an expert in any of them. He has to make the right connections.”
Product designers mainly work with or for manufacturing companies. Their work options range from their own design studios (or freelancing as an individual), design departments of manufacturing industries, small and medium scale industries, working on lifestyle products and promoting their own brand, non-governmental organisations and other crafts sectors. Their sphere of activity extends to software as well, which is a “virtual product” with buttons, etc, says Gulati, an NID alumnus.
While this makes the canvas look very wide, there are some limitations.
“India is a growing economy and has a lot of potential for product design. Our designers have got a lot of opportunity to work nationally and internationally in the last the eight to 10 years,” says Nahar. However, design is a developing field in India, which poses challenges to domestic players to prove and establish themselves. “One of the challenges for product design in India is complimentary support system from the R&D point of view, involving engineering support, model-making, CAD etc,” says Nahar. “Also with respect to society and the environment, we need to look at the diverse Indian population with diverse cultures, languages, geography and products to cater to them. Environmental sustainability is another challenge.”
Vivek Amberkar, owner of design consultancy Vivek Amberkar Product Design, Mumbai, says product development in India is “plagued by reverse engineering”.
“We are a very young country when it comes to design,” says Amberkar, an NID alumnus, whose portfolio includes the Eggsoskeleton. “So, the level of awareness we have in terms of design and how a designer could affect the product and hence the performance of a company is really low. The good part of the same is that you have fresh, undisturbed waters to explore and you could find your own way in and really create some meaningful change.”
In this meaningful pursuit, a product designer teams up with professionals from other fields to make his (and others’) ideas walk. Product design thus requires strong group orientation. “Design is not rocket science,” says Amberkar. All of us have it in us to ‘design’. “Every person is a designer in his own domain, starting right from organising your worktable or doing your garden,” says Amberkar. “I believe design is about logically making decisions at the right time under the right context when required. The ability to see, hear, understand, analyse, appreciate and criticise needs to be very strong for a designer. Interaction with people, observing and recording their behaviour in various situations, listening to them, talking to them is all important as they are the ones for whom we design.”
The other crucial skill is the ability to convey and translate your ideas into a desired outcome. “One should be able to communicate what is in one’s head.
Some designers make hand sketches, some make fancy illustrations and some make CAD models and communicate. The skill required is not the ability to draw but the ability to communicate,” elaborates Amberkar.
. Loads of creativity
. Excellent observation, visualisation and sketching skills
. Strong team orientation
. Technological bent of mind
How do I get there?
. After your Class XII, you may go for a graduate diploma or BDes programme. While NID doesn’t specify required subjects at the plus-two level, it says,
“Competence in technical and related subjects will normally be considered an advantage.”
. Take up science in senior school, followed by a degree in streams such as technology, engineering (such as mechanical), architecture, fine and applied arts,
information technology, or computer science, and then studying design at the Master’s level.