Modern designers who work in industrial and manufacturing sectors must have a diverse array of skills in order to succeed. This role requires a balancing act between analytical, logical thinking, and creative, visionary work. 

For those hoping to make a name for themselves in design, it’s essential to run a self-assessment of one’s skills. Here are 10 of the must-have skills for modern industrial designers. 

Collaboration and Teamwork

Regardless of your design niche, being able to cooperate and collaborate with a multifunctional team is essential. When there is organic cooperation between the gurus of design, production, and manufacturing, you can get the most compelling business signage project, believe professionals in B2B signage. 

As a designer, you’ll be working with businesses and marketers who have a clear vision for their brand standards and messaging. You’ll also be working with internal and external manufacturing and production teams, as well as account managers, other designers, and more.

In essence, you need to have strong interpersonal skills as a designer. You’ll need to navigate the nuances of teamwork and collaboration while still maintaining the autonomy to do what needs to be done. It’s a balancing act that many aspiring designers struggle with.


Being a designer in the world of manufacturing and production isn’t necessarily a 9-to-5, Monday through Friday job. There will be times when you need to step outside the usual hours to meet with your team or get ahead of deadlines.

You’ll need a fair amount of resilience to have both a flexible schedule and a positive work-life balance. Depending on the nature of your role and the company with which you work, you could be required to travel or adapt to other time zones. If you’re someone who struggles to adapt to change and needs a routine to thrive, being an industrial designer likely isn’t for you.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative is inherent as a designer. When working in a B2B setting, every client will want something new and unique. As a designer, it’s up to you to produce fresh ideas and channel your creativity into new designs.

As the tools of the trade are continuously evolving, you’ll also need to possess an eye for innovation. Consider the new tools and processes as they arise and how you can integrate them into your creative process. As you pursue your design career, it’s worth keeping a notebook or note-keeping app like Evernote to store your ideas and sources of inspiration as you go about your day.

Artistic Skills

Being able to envision something and having the skills to communicate your vision are two very different things. As a designer, you’ll need some basic artistic skills to get your ideas across. You should be able to sketch a clear representation of your idea to spark the design process. Those sketches will be the foundation of your project, from the prototyping phase to the final revisions.

Fortunately, while the vision and creativity required to be a designer are mainly inherited, functional artistic skills are something you can develop with training and practice. 

Understanding of Mechanical Processes

As an industrial designer, your primary role ends at the production process. Even though you likely won’t be handling the mechanical side of implementing your designs, you’ll still need an in-depth comprehension of the process.

Consider this scenario: you stay up all hours of the night designing signage for a B2B client. You pitch the design, and the client loves it. Then, you come to find out that certain aspects of your design aren’t possible with the current manufacturing infrastructure and tools at your company’s disposal. As such, you’ve wasted time and disappointed the client.

Of course, having proper communication with your team helps prevent these scenarios. However, the more you know about the manufacturing side of the process, the better you can implement that knowledge into your designs.

How do you accomplish this? Dedication to expanding your knowledge and learning about innovations in your industry.

Problem-Solving Skills

One could argue that problem-solving skills are an asset in any job. However, the complexity and technological aspect of modern industrial design and manufacturing exacerbate the need for these skills.

You’ll discover that your clients don’t always have reasonable expectations of the design and production process. Some of them will want champagne on a beer budget. They’ll have requests for sizes, shapes or materials that you may not have navigated before.

As a designer, it’s your job to give the client the closest possible approximation of what they want within the confines they provide. It’s up to you to ascertain how you’ll make their lettering fit without looking crowded or overshadowing the imagery they want. You’ll be tasked with predicting problems and determining the best way to solve them — and you’ll need the skills to do that.

Ability To Take Constructive Criticism

One of the most exigent aspects of being in a creative industry is learning to accept feedback and criticism of your work. This feedback will come from all angles — team members, management, clients, and so on.

Learning to separate your ego from your creations is a must as a designer in the world of production and manufacturing. Resilience and humility are profound skills that you’ll need to succeed in this business for years to come.

Project Management Skills

Even if you’re working with a project manager, you’ll need to possess some project management skills of your own. Organization, critical thinking, and being able to prioritize tasks and milestones are essential skills — especially if you have multiple projects on the go.

While your organization might have process flows put in place, it’s also worth discovering and outlining a personal project workflow that works best for you.

Attention to Detail

Meticulous attention to detail is one of the most critical skills an industrial designer must possess. Even the slightest mistake that goes unchecked can cause costly delays and production issues that could derail your career. Depending on your industry, there are also safety concerns to consider.

Attention to detail is also an invaluable skill to have when looking at the overall production process. Being proactive in highlighting potential pitfalls throughout the production process can help keep the whole team on track.

Continued Learning and Development

Finally, the world of industry and manufacturing is evolving at an unprecedented rate. Just a few decades ago, 3D printing was something out of a science fiction movie. Now, it’s revolutionizing not only the manufacturing world, but the healthcare industry as well.

The tools and systems you use today might be obsolete 10 years from now. As a modern designer operating in a fast-paced, ever-changing world, you must dedicate yourself to continued education. Make time in your mind and your schedule for continued learning and professional development. Read the latest industry research, take skills development courses, and be humble enough to know that you don’t know everything.

Final Thoughts

Working in industrial design and manufacturing is a viable career option for those who have both analytical and creative skills. You must be able to both envision and execute, plan and adapt, and work alone and with teams. 

While it’s a tough job, the knowledge that you’ve added something new to the world is well worth the effort.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.