What is the difference between mechanical engineer and industrial designer? I have a friend who graduated in 1985 with a BS in industrial design, but his job title at Qualcom is Senior Mechanical Engineer. He's never taken the EIT or PE, but considers himself a mechanical engineer.
just wondering what the difference is or are the two professions the same?
We all know what a mechanical engineer (ME) is, so the problem lies in understanding what an Industrial Designer (ID) is. So, having an ID degree I think I can clear some of this confusion up.
ID is to manufactured products what an architect is to buildings. Both have a large creative and aesthetic component that is lacking in the engineering profession. (No offense, but engineers don't take many art classes) Another name for ID is Product Design. The name is rarely used, but more descriptive.
Most IDs obtain their education in Art & Design Schools. A few ID programs are in engineering departments. I suspect your friend has a degree from the latter judging by his title and his BS degree.
The closest engineering position to ID is Design Engineer. What they have in common is aesthetic considerations as well as a large, project overview perspective. I've worked with Design Engineers on two occasions and the synergy is very productive.
There is a wide range of talents in ID. Some will have basic engineering skills while others have no math, but a strong creative and ideation skills (drawing while creating). Almost all automotive stylists are Industrial Designers.
Besides my alma mater, other noted ID programs are Rhode Island School of Design, Art Center College of Design, Univ. Illinois, Carnegie-Mellon, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, there are about two dozen more.
IDSA, the professional society for ID:
hope this helps, Dan Bollinger, Purdue, BA, ID, '86
As long as he does not claim to be a licensed engineer and practice as though he were. He may well have the experience and knowledge to "engineer".
Industrial design has more to to with asthetics, or "look and feel" of a product. ID's have to have more artistic ability and training than a ME. At the same time, the ID must also have a good knowledge of mechanics and production methods so he/she does not design a product that is impossible to engineer. Often the two discilines must work in colateral on a project.
If an engineer designed a coffee pot it would be square, stainless and functional. The industrial designer makes it ergonomic and marketable without (hopefully) compromising function. Read this in an engineering magazine somewhere.
Or stainless, for that matter. The engineer is going to be more concerned with performance, and industry standards. Making it 'usable' is another way of talking about human factors and that's generally the field of industrial design. ID is the main consumer of human factors research, in fact Henry Dreyfuss, the industrial designer, invented the field of study. And, the human factors symposium is held concurrently with the industrial design symposium. IDs are 'people' persons. Maybe that's why most ID programs and in the School of Humanities.
BY LAW, a person is not legally recognized as an engineer until they become licensed by the state in which they work. They may be a graduate engineer with a string of letters after their name, but the state must license them to be a "legal" engineer - Professional Engineer. The primary purpose of licensing engineers is one of public safety (just like driving a car) - you must prove your ability.
Many companies recognize a persons ability and use engineer in the title bestowed upon an employee. That title is seldom recognized elsewhere and not by the state laws. An example of the word "engineer" in the title is: Microsoft has elected to use the term "software engineer". Several states are taking exception to the term and taking legal action because of the state licensing laws.
In addition, a graduate engineer carries that acknowledgement (diploma) anywhere he/she may work. A Professional Engineer, in most cases, is recognized only in the state (?) where licensed. Working in several states usually requires licensing (to be "legal") in each one - the laws must be reviewed in each of the respective states.
To my knowledge, a graduate engineer must, by law, be supervised by a Professional Engineer. In many cases that PE is the chief engineer or engineering manager or some similar position in the company and has direct control of the work done by the non-PE.
I was trying to generalize the information knowing that specifics depend upon the licensing laws of the state in question. Because each state has its own set of laws governing the licensing of PEs, it is difficult to be specific. In Pennsylvania, if I remember correctly, the law states the PE must have/has total responsibility for the work being performed. The responsible person must be licensed and may not necessarily be a Supervisor by title. To my knowledge, the primary purpose of licensing is safety for the public.
I was not aware that a PE is not *important* in the Aerospace industry. The Aerospace industry is pretty much under the control of the federal government. That industry has had a number of serious *accidents* that may have been prevented if key personnel were more safety conscious from all that I have heard and read.