Advice for industrial design

 14 February 2013

After working in the design industry for a number of companies, Adrian and Jeremy Wright set up Design Wright, a business specialising in products and furniture. They spoke about their career pathways and shared advice for starting out in design.

Design Wright has designed for many companies, including O2, Philips electronics, and Joseph Joseph kitchenware.
Design Wright has designed for many companies, including O2, Philips electronics, and Joseph Joseph kitchenware.

Working as industrial designers

"When people ask us what we do, we tell non-design people that we design products and furniture for mass production.

"We have also worked on website, brochure, photography, illustration and engineering based projects

"You need the ability to use both sides of your brain – creative and logical."

"When people in the industry ask us, we say we're industrial designers.

"We like to get involved in both the technical and visual aspects of a project. Sometimes it's just 3D Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) work for days on end.

"However, we also spend a lot of time building models and developing ideas on paper. The computer is an amazing tool, but it can often act as a barrier to the thought process."

Training in industrial design

Adrian: "Engineering features strongly in both our educations. I studied Mechanical Engineering at Liverpool University, followed by a Masters in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art.

Jeremy: "Our training started with our choice of A levels at school. We both studied Maths, Physics and Design and Technology. I also took Further Maths.

"Following in Adrian’s footsteps, I started a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London, but I found the course a bit theoretical and lacking in application. The following year I transferred to Brunel University to study Industrial Design.

"I hadn't always wanted to get into industrial design specifically, but for a long time I'd wanted to do something related to design or architecture."

Breaking into the design industry

Adrian: "After my RCA exhibition at the end of my degree, I got a job offer from the architects Foster and Partners.

"I worked there for two and a half years, followed by a stint at David Chipperfield Architects. Both jobs gave me a great insight into creating products to fit into a larger scheme, such as a building.  

"This is a process quite unlike most products which need to 'jump out' of that scheme, or get distorted in some other way."

Jeremy: "While I was at university, I did a six-month internship at Philips Design. A week after I graduated, I received a phone call from them asking me to design a mobile phone.

"After that project, I worked on a range of digital cameras, and then a kitchen blender. I ended up freelancing for Philips for the next couple of years, before setting up Design Wright with Adrian."

Starting a design business

"Going into business always seemed like the natural progression. Design isn’t really all that established as a profession, and designers are often hugely undervalued as employees.

"Designers are often undervalued as employees. If you want to progress, you have to make opportunities for yourself."

"If you want to progress, you have to make opportunities for yourself, and starting up on your own is one way to do that.

"If you think you have sufficient desire, motivation and ability, you should give it a try. Trust in your ability to regularly come up with strong ideas.

"Keep plugging away, and there's a good chance you will find success."

"You don't necessarily need to be based in London for things to work.

"London is a global design hub with loads of like-minded people. It's great for designers and employers, and there are plenty of exhibitions and events to inspire and network at.

"However, the whole thing can be a bit wrapped up in itself sometimes, and we've had experiences where we got a lot more out of visiting a factory in Lancashire."

"We enjoy realising an idea most of all. 

"There are many frustrating aspects of being in a design business. For example, sometimes the best designs don't make it into production, for all the wrong reasons.

"You also have to be prepared to chase overdue payments. 

Advice for starting out in design

1. Don't follow the crowd

"You don’t need to have a formal design training to become a designer, particularly if you want to work for yourself.

"If you're interested in design, you don't necessarily have to do a design degree. Similarly, try not to rely too heavily on 3D CAD.

"If you plod down the same path, you will have the same experiences and inspiration as everybody else, and end up with the same ideas.

"It can help to open doors, but so can other achievements. There are too many design courses on offer, and also too many designers. The whole thing is too convenient."

2. Build your design process skills

"Always start with a clear and original concept. You should refer back to this as a point of reference constantly.

"Don't underestimate the power of a sketch as a communication tool."

"Learn different methods of developing and communicating a design. Don’t underestimate the power of a sketch or simple model as an effective communication tool.

"You need the ability to use both sides of your brain – creative and logical.

"You need to be creative to come up with original ideas, and logical to analyse and develop those ideas."

3. Build a mix of wider skills

"The most important thing is being able to think about something from many different angles, and learning how to communicate an idea to yourself and others.

"You can pick this up from many subjects and disciplines. For us, engineering was a good way to differentiate ourselves from others, and a great foundation for design.

"In itself, it isn’t very trendy or particularly glamorous, but a lot of the great Italian designers trained in engineering or architecture."

See more of Jeremy and Adrian's work at their website

Stay updated

Sign up for our weekly careers newsletter

View our privacy policy.

Related jobs & apprenticeships

Related events & opportunities