Industrial Design: Why Do Product Shapes Change Over Time?by@davayv
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Industrial Design: Why Do Product Shapes Change Over Time?

by Davit AyvazyanFebruary 6th, 2023
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According to [Research and Markets], the world's branch of industrial design services was about $2.2 bln in 2020. Experts believe that this sphere will reach $ 2.9 billion by 2027. The global industrial design market is expected to grow by 3.9% yearly.
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According to Research and Markets, the global market for industrial design services stood at $2.2 bln in 2020 and experts project that it will be around $2.9 billion by 2027. This suggests that the global industrial design market is expected to grow by 3.9% yearly.

Moreover, under the report based on Prudour's research, the Global industrial design revenue is constantly rising and experts believe this its profits will increase from almost $39 million in 2021 to $59.5 million by 2030.

What is the reason for such an intensive industrial design market development? Let's consider the evolution of the industrial design (ID) sphere. This will help us to understand the these trends better.

How Did That All Start?

For the first time in history, the German company AEG began to use industrial designers' services. In 1907 the enterprise's owner hired the architect and artist P. Behrens to improve his company's product appearance.

Electric kettles AEG


However, the idea of ID revealed itself much earlier. For example, in the 18th century, an English entrepreneur, J. Wedgwood, used some industrial design concepts as a part of printed fabrics' production.

Industrial design concepts were widely used in the USA during the Great Depression that began in 1929. At that time, numerous business owners had to shut down their factories because of significantly decreased incomes.


Entrepreneurs usually rent out their industrial workshops to get at least some profit. The latter were commonly occupied by artists. The craftsmen frequently lived in deep poverty. Therefore, low workshops' rent prices incredibly attracted them.

Industrial Design After World War II

The middle of the 20th century is a distinct ID growth and development era. Today, we can see that many of the design solutions that were common for those days, come back to our lives as vintage ideas. Bright colors and round shapes are becoming stylish again. But why did they even appear in the routine lives of people from the 50s?

Enhanced simplicity of the household appliances

Rationalization of the design was the main trend during the 50s. This was the post-war period so manufacturers couldn’t afford to use too expensive materials to create necessary household appliances such as TV sets, refrigerators, microwave ovens, etc. They needed to make the production process as cheap as possible. That’s why the range of the most popular materials included artificial materials such as glass, plastic, and various metal alloys. The simplest solution was to manufacture household appliances of round shapes. At the same time, the simplicity of these materials allowed manufacturers to play with a wide range of colors. This combination became the most popular design trend of the 50s.

In addition, many common household appliances, including radio-phonograph consoles and refrigerator-stove combinations, were just invented during the 50s. Other utensils, such as dishwashers, became available for the middle class. Naturally, the technical characteristics of these devices were quite simple. There were not many extra details, so manufacturers didn’t think about how to integrate them into the designs of their products.

Optimism was the rescue

WWII was undoubtedly one of the biggest disasters in the history of humanity. It caused not only economic problems, which made manufacturers look for cheap solutions, but also had an extremely negative impact on the mental health of the entire society.

Kitchen design in the 50s


Because of this, there was a necessity to boost and enhance the feeling of idealism. People were willing to feel real democracy; they wanted to see things more open and simple. The designs of the most common household appliances were quite helpful in fulfilling this aim. The modernist style appeared, and designers started experimenting with different ideas that could make post-war life more optimistic. They achieved this by adding bright hues to the routine lives of ordinary people.

Durability becoming the matter

Manufacturers realized that people couldn’t afford to buy their products multiple times. The economic conditions weren’t the best. The vast majority of buyers were looking for cost-effective options. That’s why companies had to ensure that the devices they produced would be as durable as possible.

One of the most common ways to solve the durability issue was to cover the metal surface with special enamel or liquid plastic. Thanks to this, the surface of the device became more solid. Alongside this, enamel and liquid plastic had unusual visual features, which helped the appliances look more sleek and glossy.


Evolution of the designer profession

One more thing we should take into consideration is the fact that the middle of the 20th century was the time when the US and European cultures started closely interacting. Besides, the US competed against the USSR and tried to promote the idea of the “American dream.” The design of everyday things turned out to be one of the most efficient marketing tools in this promotional campaign.

Harley Earl was one the first who understood this. The entrepreneur revolutionized the car production industry – his cars weren’t just vehicles, these were attractive products. Actually, the invention of automobile styling by Harley Earl was the reason why other companies started hiring designers as their full-time staff members. Thus, the designer profession became more popular, creating a better field for competition and accelerating the style's progress.

What Is Industrial Design Nowadays About?


Over the course of time, the industry of household appliance manufacturing has evolved. New technologies, concepts, solutions, and materials have been introduced. Thus, manufacturers started looking for new ideas and combinations of materials. This is why the style from the 50s isn’t the routine anymore, but rather a fashionable trend that is now being replaced by something more creative and functional.

Presently, ID helps to solve a lot of manufacturing tasks. Furthermore, business owners can only stay competitive in the global market by applying such a concept within their companies' production processes.

That's because modern ID includes the following mottos:

  1. Innovations' implementation. For instance, Sony made an audio player, Walkman, in 1979. The device allowed listening to music and not disturbing people around, thanks to headphones. The player had plenty of unusual functions for that time. So, it became a revolution in the music sphere.
  2. Providing consumers with easy-to-use products. Here, e.g., Apple is a great example. This company invented a PC mouse (Lisa Mouse) that looked like contemporary analogs. It could work on any surface. Nay, sensor smartphones became popular worldwide because of this company. That's due to Apple creating iPhone 2G. The latter was the first sensor smartphone with a truly user-friendly interface.
  3. Ensuring products' aesthetics and natural appearance. E.g., shaping an ordinary bottle into a female body profile can significantly increase sales of products in such a container. However, if such a flask has a label with a strict font style, this will alienate consumers.
  4. Compliance with current fashion trends. Many brands release restyled versions of their products to match the vogue.

The wooden supercar Splinter


Also, the popularity of products made from environmentally friendly materials has increased over the past few decades. E.g., in the USA, a supercar, Splinter, with a stylish wooden body and even a timbered suspension, was introduced in 2007.

How Does The Demand for Goods Relate to Industrial Design?

Well-designed products affect consumers in a similar way to optical illusions. So, customers frequently buy goods with stylish appearances. However, they may have the same quality and number of options as analogs with slightly worse looks. And the worse the design of competitors' products, the better the good with the most stylish appearance will look.


The stats confirm the information above. Under the report, based on McKinsey research, manufacturers that use ID concepts receive 32% more income. Also, their shareholders obtain 56% larger returns. So, things' shape changings help not only realize creative ideas but also increase profits. To get more spectacular information on this topic, follow my posts.

Lead image source.