Problems of being an industrial designer

May 25, 2023


Reading Time: 3 minutes

24 May 2023

iagt sketchbook language 1

Concept Designers specialise in conceiving exciting designs that, for the most part, look great on screen but do not necessarily need to have any grounding in reality. Yes, the more grounded the designs appear, the more convincing they are, but reality more often than not looses out to screen presence – it’s gotta look good baby!

Industrial Designers on the other hand are all about designing stuff that is going to be real (industrial design literally surrounds you every day). It has to work and, more importantly, is subject to boring real world considerations… can it be made or will it explode? These differences mean the lens an industrial designer looks through when designing is usually very different to that of a concept designer’s.

Naturally there are many notable crossovers from the ID profession to the realm of concept design, Syd Mead and Daniel Simon are two of my favorites (though strictly speaking they are transportation designers – the professions are linked); before the advent of dedicated entertainment based courses, Industrial Design was a natural pathway for those interested in working in the film industry.

But getting to the point…

When it comes to concept design, my single biggest issue is, always has been, and always will be, turning off that part of my brain that keeps telling me ‘that’s shit, it’ll never hold together’. I’m especially bad when it comes to motorcycle design – most concepts I see get mentally binned as motorcycle design is a very delicate blend of engineering and design, subject to very set dynamics and ergonomics… and which most people get totally wrong. So when it comes to designing concepts for the far future, even if I am thinking pie-in-the-sky, reality is always nagging at me.

I’ve tried many times to fight this. And failed. I’ll get excited right up until the point that I really look at something and suddenly say ‘hold on!’ Random shapes, no matter how cool, simply bug me. When I look at them too closely, I start thinking of spacial envelopes, construction and dynamics; ultimately the shapes become nothing more than… random shapes. And don’t get me started on ‘greebles‘. Where good design is simplicity in concept and execution, greebles just say to me ‘bad’, sloppy, design.

I’d be a shit concept designer in Hollywood, that’s for sure.

I’d decided almost from the start that in the MAG-100 universe, human society (somehow) had developed evolved an aesthetic where function, not form, is considered beauty – don’t cover that engine up, express it! If not careful that could easily mean everything ends up with a very utilitarian, almost military feeling, which is certainly not the intention (too much of that going on these days!). Rather, I am attempting to develop an aesthetic that encompasses an ideology that is very different to our own, one where function is folded into form, no matter what it is.

The above pages are my beginning scribblings in an attempt to try and devise this language that ultimately will guide my designs; a language where form, derived from function, is the driving aesthetic of design. Call this the beginnings of mt style guide for the MAG-100 universe.

I have a pretty big image reference library too…

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Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.