Boom in product design fuelled by US market

The growth in virtual, exhibition and structural packaging design in the UK and a booming US industrial sector, means UK product designers are in high demand, say leading industry figures.

The total number of industrial designers employed in the US grew by 25 per cent in the last year and by 47 per cent in the last five years, according to a report just published by the Industrial Designers Society of America.

The report also predicts the number of industrial designers will grow by 84 per cent by the end of the year 2000.

While there are no equivalent figures for the industry in the UK, anecdotal evidence suggests the situation reflects that in the US.

“The US offers great opportunities and a lot of our students have gone there over the years. But in the UK in the last two or three years the opportunities have increased quite considerably too,” says Ravensbourne 3D design course leader Stephen Green.

PSD Associates director Steve Shoes reckons the number of product designers working in the UK has probably doubled in the past five years and expects it to continue at the same rate. PSD has quadrupled its size to 40 in recent years.

Meanwhile, Factory Design managing director Chris Tennent has also noticed an increase in employment opportunities in the UK and the US in recent years. The six-strong group plans to increase its operation and take on more product designers.

“We see the US as a huge market. We have already done a lot there, but want to do more. Some US groups want to come here but, because of the proliferation of expertise here, few are likely to be successful,” says Tennent.

Tennent says the increase in awareness of product design is illustrated by the increase in the number of courses springing up in recent years. “Product design has become more integral to the brand and more integral to the business process,” he adds.

Green puts the growth in opportunity in this country down more to the growth of structural packaging, exhibition design and virtual reality. “A training in product design is good preparation for the three-dimensional aspect of these disciplines,” he says.

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