Industrial design is an applied art whereby the aesthetics and usability of products may be improved. Design aspects specified by the industrial designer may include the overall shape of the object, the location of details with respect to one another, colors, texture, sounds, and aspects concerning the use of the product ergonomics. Additionally the industrial designer may specify aspects concerning the production process, choice of materials and the way the product is presented to the consumer at the point of sale. The use of industrial designers in a product development process may lead to added values by improved usability, lowered production costs and more appealing products. It is importantant that in order to be an industrial design the product has to be produced in an industrial way, for example an artisan can't be considered an industrial designer although she may challenge the same aspects of a product.
Product design is focused on products only, while industrial design has a broader focus on concepts, products and processes. In addition to considering aesthetics, usability, and ergonomics, it can also encompass the engineering of objects, usefulness as well as usability, market placement, and other concerns.
Product design and industrial design can overlap into the fields of user interface design, information design and interaction design. Various schools of Industrial Design and/or Product Design may specialize in one of these aspects, ranging from pure art colleges (product styling) to mixed programs of engineering and design, to related disciplines like exhibit design and interior design.
In the US, the field of industrial design hit a high-water mark of popularity in the late '30s and early '40s, with several industrial designers becoming minor celebrities. Raymond Loewy, Norman bel Geddes, and Henry Dreyfuss remain the best known.
In the UK, the term "industrial design" increasingly implies design with considerable engineering and technology awareness alongside human factors—a "Total Design" approach, promoted by the late Stuart Pugh (University of Strathclyde) and others.
Registered industrial designs
An industrial design can be protected in most countries as intellectual property. In some cases it can be protected also or as an alternative under copyright law. Generally registration must be made in each country in which protection is sought. However some countries (39 nations in 2005) have entered into the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs which provides for mutual recognition of registered industrial designs. The Hague Agreement is administered by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations.
Industrial design under Canadian law
Under the Law of Canada, until it is put into production a design may for purposes of copyright be considered a work of art; it may also be registered under the Industrial Design Act of Canada   as an industrial design which gives exclusive rights for 10 years, After it is put into production, more than 50 produced, copyright protection lapses, leaving protection available only as an industrial design which must be registered. In Canada a product which incorporates a registered industrial design may be marked on the article, its label or packaging by a "D" in a circle and the name of the owner of the design.
Notable industrial designers
- Egmont Arens (1888-1966)
- Robert Davol Budlong (1902-1955)
- Norman bel Geddes (1893-1958)
- Luigi Colani (1928- )
- Michele De Lucchi (1951- )
- Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972)
- James Dyson (1947- )
- Charles and Ray Eames (1907-1978) and (1912-1988)
- Harley J. Earl (1893-1969)
- Hartmut Esslinger (1944- )
- Virgil Exner (1909-1973)
- Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
- Kenneth Grange (1929- )
- Michael Graves (1934- )
- Walter Adolph Gropius (1883-1969)
- Jonathan Ive (1967- )
- Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971)
- Raymond Loewy (1893-1986)
- Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969)
- László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
- Victor Papanek (1927-1999)
- Dieter Rams (1932– )
- Richard Sapper (1932- )
- Ettore Sottsass (1917- )
- Philippe Starck (1949- )
- Brooks Stevens (1911-1995)
- Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960)
- Russel Wright (1904-1976)
- Eva Zeisel (1906- )
- Industrial design rights
- Design classics
- Interaction design
- New product development
- Value engineering
- Automobile design
- Environmental Design
- Six Sigma
- Famous industrial designers