In the world of industrial design, the transition from being a freelance designer to joining a corporate team can feel like stepping into an entirely new universe. I remember the moment I made the leap from working on my own to joining Havells, a leading FMEG company with a thriving Consumer Experience and Design studio. It was like swapping a solo journey through the stars for a collaborative mission to explore a whole new galaxy.

At first, the change was a shock to my system. As a freelancer, I was used to working independently, and the sudden shift to being part of a team left me feeling a little disoriented. I found myself questioning whether I had made the right decision. Was I ready for the challenges that come with corporate life? Could I adapt to working within a structured environment?

But as time went on, I discovered that working as part of a team had its own unique benefits. Being surrounded by other designers with different perspectives and skill sets helped me to grow both personally and professionally. I learned to communicate my ideas more effectively, to collaborate on projects with others, and to see design challenges from a fresh perspective.

In this blog post, I want to share my experience of finding balance in industrial design — from moving from working independently to becoming part of a larger team. I’ll talk about the ups and downs of my journey, the new skills I’ve acquired, and the valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way. So come join me on this adventure as we explore the world of industrial design and the joys of being interconnected!

Team Play:

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of joining a team is learning to work collaboratively towards a common goal. For me, this has been a significant shift from working independently, but one that has brought its own set of rewards. I’ve discovered that being part of a team has given me insights into my own strengths and weaknesses and helped me understand the areas where I need to improve to thrive in a collaborative environment.

As I navigate the new dynamics of being part of a team, I’ve also realized the importance of contributing unique ideas and perspectives while being open to feedback and constructive criticism. It can be a balancing act to find the right mix of individual and collective creativity, but the rewards of working together to create something truly special are worth the effort.

Another important aspect of effective team play is the delegation of tasks and the sharing of responsibilities within the team. This has been a crucial element of my learning journey so far, as it has helped me to understand my role in the team and to develop trust with my colleagues. While I am still at the nascent stage of my learnings, I am excited to continue growing and improving as a team player in the exciting world of industrial design.

Communication with Stakeholders:

I’ve come to understand that communication with stakeholders is a critical part of the design process. Whether it’s building and maintaining professional relationships with clients and suppliers or working with other stakeholders, effective communication is essential for successful collaboration.

One of the key skills I’ve developed in this area is the ability to articulate design concepts and ideas clearly and effectively through various mediums. This has involved learning to use a variety of tools and techniques, such as sketches, drawings, and 3D models, to communicate my ideas in a way that is accessible and engaging for all stakeholders.

Another important aspect of effective communication is listening to the needs and requirements of stakeholders and incorporating them into the design process. This has required me to develop active listening skills and to be open to feedback and constructive criticism. It can be challenging to balance the needs of various stakeholders, but by actively engaging with them, I’ve been able to build stronger relationships and create designs that meet the needs of all involved.

Designing is only 20% of work:

Designing a product is only a small part of the process. In order to bring a successful product to market, it’s important to become familiar with the various stages of product development, from prototyping to testing and production.

One of the key skills I’ve developed in this area is taking ownership and responsibility for ensuring the product is successfully brought to market. This has involved working closely with other teams and stakeholders to ensure that the design is not only beautiful and functional but also cost-effective and manufacturable. It’s important to understand the constraints of the production process and to work collaboratively with suppliers and manufacturers to make sure the design can be produced at scale.

Effective communication and coordination with the relevant teams and stakeholders have been essential in this process. By being proactive in communicating with everyone involved in the product development process, from engineering to marketing, we can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Design is more than Sketching:

As an industrial designer, I’ve learned that design is more than just sketching or creating visual representations of a product. It encompasses a broad range of activities and processes that are all aimed at creating a successful product.

One of the key skills I’ve developed in this area is understanding the design process and its various stages. This includes activities such as research, prototyping, testing, and production, all of which are essential for creating a product that meets the needs of the user and is successful in the marketplace.

Another important aspect of design is using a variety of tools and techniques to communicate and realize design ideas. While sketching is certainly an important tool, there are many other tools and techniques that can be used to bring a design to life. These include 3D modeling, digital prototyping, and other digital tools that can help designers create realistic and functional representations of their designs.

Learnings from User Research:

I’ve come to appreciate the importance of conducting user research to inform and validate design decisions. Without understanding the needs and desires of the end user, it’s impossible to create a product that truly meets their needs.

One of the key skills I’ve developed in this area is gaining insights into user behavior, needs, and motivations through ethnographic research methods. This involves observing users in their natural environment, conducting interviews and surveys, and analyzing data to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and experiences.

Through this research, I’ve come to understand the dissonance between a designer’s perception and the user’s actual thinking and experiences. By gaining a deeper understanding of the user’s needs and desires, we can make more informed design decisions that are more likely to result in a successful product.

Skills as a Generalist:

I’ve found myself becoming more of a generalist with a special emphasis on system innovation and swiftly adapting to new technologies. I’ve come to recognize the value of having a broad range of design skills and knowledge, which allows me to bring a diverse range of perspectives and solutions to each project.

One of the key skills I’ve developed as a generalist is being able to handle multiple projects simultaneously, and adapting to changing project requirements and stakeholder needs. This requires me to be flexible and adaptable, and to have a deep understanding of the design process and its various stages.

Another important aspect of being a generalist is being able to adapt and respond to new technologies and emerging design trends. This means staying up to date with the latest tools and techniques and being able to integrate them into my work to create innovative solutions.

A clear distinction between working as a freelancer and working 9–5:

  1. Recognizing that while freelance work and working in a design team both have their unique advantages, they are also fundamentally different experiences.
  2. Understanding that as a freelancer, one is responsible for all aspects of a project, from concept development to final delivery, whereas in a design team, responsibilities are often divided and shared among team members.
  3. Acknowledging that working in a team provides opportunities for growth and learning that may not be possible as a freelancer, such as working with diverse perspectives and skill sets, and having access to mentorship and guidance from more experienced team members.
  4. Realizing that freelance work provides greater flexibility and control over the design process, but also requires greater self-motivation and discipline to see a project through to completion.

Always be grateful: 

In my journey as an industrial designer, I’ve come to recognize the importance of being grateful, no matter what challenges I face. One of the keyways that gratitude has helped me is by acknowledging the valuable role that team members and managers play in the design process and my personal growth as a designer.

Most of my learnings came from my team members and I am deeply grateful for their expertise, knowledge, and willingness to share their experiences with me. They have played a crucial role in my development as a designer and I will always be thankful for their contributions to my growth and success.

Expressing gratitude for the guidance, mentorship, and support provided by team members and managers is important not just for personal growth, but also for building strong and supportive relationships within the team. Recognizing the importance of open and honest communication, collaboration, and mutual support is essential for success in the design process