Industrial design is a multifaceted career that combines art, business and engineering to create things people will interact with in their day-to-day lives. Read on to explore whether an industrial design career might interest you, and how an art degree can help you get there.
What does an industrial designer do?
The first step in determining whether you might be interested in a career in industrial design is understanding what an industrial designer does. Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, trucks, toasters, blenders and even children's toys.
An industrial designer makes blueprints and sketches for what will become a final product that's both aesthetically pleasing and useful in practical terms. If you've ever purchased a home appliance, a vehicle or even a toy robot for a child, you've benefited from the work of industrial designers.
In addition to providing an opportunity to use your knowledge of art and design to create things that will impact people's lives, an industrial design career can be appealing for a multitude of reasons. As many artists will tell you, making a living as a professional artist in a gallery space or other fine arts venue can be challenging, with unsteady hours and uncertain pay. Differently, an industrial design career provides you with the opportunity to work with art while earning a comfortable salary at a steady job.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that an industrial designer in 2021 had a median annual income of $77,030. You can get started as an entry-level industrial designer with only a bachelor's degree and a postgraduate education isn’t required.
Art studies: Paving the way to industrial design
The next step is finding the right degree program to become qualified for your first job in industrial design. Because this is an artistic field, an arts degree is a great stepping stone toward an industrial design career.
Many types of arts degrees are available to students, including fine arts and art history programs. However, for an aspiring industrial designer, one particularly appealing option may be a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a studio art element and a focus in art studies.
Studio art involves physically creating art during coursework. An online arts degree with a concentration in art studies will include a studio art component, even if you're not working in the same studio as your classmates. The studio art portion of your degree will give you the opportunity to make art in a variety of forms, such as painting, sculpture, photography and drawing, with professional guidance.
In addition to spending time in the studio, you'll also learn about different aspects of the arts and their broader impacts on society. You might take courses in art history, art in business and technical skills in art. Since your degree is a BA, rather than a more focused Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), you’ll also be developing your skills in core liberal arts subjects, including composition, mathematics and the natural sciences.
BFA vs. BA in art: What are the differences?
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) are both respected undergraduate degrees within the art industry. However, while both programs relate to art, their coursework and overall focus differ.
A BFA in art emphasizes fine art studies, such as dance, drama, music and visual arts. While a BFA does include general liberal arts courses, including English, math, science and history, approximately 75% of credits taken come from creative arts courses. Differently, a BA in art encompasses equal studies in both liberal arts and creative arts courses.
One benefit of pursuing a BA rather than a BFA, particularly for an aspiring industrial designer, is that you’ll graduate with enhanced artistic skills and a knowledge of certain scientific and technical subjects. This may be especially appealing to industrial design firms, which need employees with strong mathematical skills and computer literacy, in addition to an artist's eye.
Once you've completed your BA in art studies, you can immediately seek work as an industrial designer, without the need for additional education.
Earn your art degree online from Arizona State University
If you love the arts and want a career with a practical bent, working as an industrial designer may be for you.
ASU Online’s Bachelor of Arts in art with a concentration in art studies provides you with the opportunity to create original art, work with your hands and get messy, while developing the analytical industrial design skills needed for a successful career, such as:
- Creative thinking.
- Cultural awareness.
- Ethical reasoning.
- Problem solving.
- Quantitative reasoning.
- Verbal and written communication.
Additionally, your courses will supply you with knowledge and experience in a variety of industrial design processes and practices, including:
- Graphic art, artistic content and marketing or promotional materials development.
- Merchandise and product display design.
- Visual art storytelling.
- Writing material for artistic or commercial purposes.