Industrial Designers Experiment with AI:
The world of product development is undergoing a shift caused by the fusion of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and human creativity. As product designers, we are a hybrid of artists, engineers, marketers, researchers, and more. Our inquisitive nature enables us to harness the latest technologies and apply these to our process to yield new ideas.
This is the first of three articles that explore how this cutting-edge technology supports industrial designers in creating innovative products that meet the ever-changing needs of consumers. To better grasp how to use this technology for product and industrial design to complement human inventiveness, Beyond Design’s Industrial Designers spent the last few months testing different AI programs. The goal? To learn how they can integrate these technologies into their design process to continue to produce innovative and bold designs.
AI enhances discussions, problem-solving, and idea generation, helping us ask “what if?” Imagine AI as a peer that catalyzes ideas when needed most, not just giving suggestions but inspiring the train of thought. As the world becomes increasingly tech-driven, it’s no surprise that AI technology is making its way into product development. By integrating AI into our everyday workflow, we gained practical, hands-on experience to witness firsthand how valuable AI can be. We set out to see how these tools could spark creativity and stack on top of each other to a tremendous effect.
Join us as we delve into the exciting world of AI-powered product development.
How To Harness AI For Industrial Design
AI can help introduce a dynamic world of possibilities for enhancing product development and design. Different AI tools serve different purposes, so it’s essential to identify your objectives and select the tool that best aligns with your goals.
We selected three AI tools to assist our design exploration:
ChatGPT: Exploring Ideas Through Words:
You can engage in meaningful conversations with Language Learning models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT to help generate unlimited ideas for brainstorming sessions within seconds. This kind of AI offers suggestions that can motivate human creativity and encourage quantity-first brainstorming. Of course, experienced designers are essential to interpreting and refining the outputs through discussion, practical expertise, and industry insights from research. The AI ideas alone are not always revolutionary, but in the hands of an industrial designer, they are excellent at providing a range of topics to explore.
For example, ChatGPT was used to generate ideas for a popcorn machine. Below are the results of the prompt:
“List innovative features to include in a new popcorn machine product.”
- Custom Flavors and Seasonings Dispenser: A built-in dispenser that allows users to add a variety of flavors and seasonings to their popcorn, ranging from classic butter to unique gourmet Options.
- Kernel Quality Detection: Sensors that analyze the quality of the kernels and adjust cooking time and temperature, accordingly, ensuring more consistent results.
- Dual Chamber Design: A machine that can pop two different types of kernels simultaneously, offering a variety of popcorn options in a single batch.
- Interactive Display: An interactive touchscreen or holographic display that showcases popcorn recipes, nutrition information, and entertainment while the popcorn is popping.
LLMs can also extract valuable insights from raw data. Industrial designers can leverage these predictions to assess user needs, product feedback, and market trends, efficiently informing product development.
The AI output below shows a summary after ChatGPT received a dozen product reviews for a popcorn machine and then given the following prompt:
“Summarize the key insights from the product reviews.”
- Some users found that the popcorn tasted like cardboard, even after trying various kernel brands.
- Some users had issues with the popcorn maker throwing popcorn around their kitchen as it popped.
- One user found that the key to complete popping is a rapid temperature increase.
- One user found that the popcorn maker was great because everything stayed in the bowl and it had an on/off switch.
Note: It’s critical to conduct validation to confirm information accuracy. We also encourage designers to add current market trends and filter information to form relevant and realistic information.
Midjourney: Visual Exploration
Midjourney is a generative AI program that turns prompts or pictures into a treasure trove of machine-made design concepts. Designers provide Midjourney with a prompt containing a subject and descriptors and, in return, receive visual image results. These outputs are not the final products but serve as creative fuel for industrial designers to take inspiration from.
We instructed Midjourney to imagine the popcorn makers below when we entered the prompt:
“Imagine a modern, sleek, high-tech popcorn machine. Photorealistic render.”
Midjourney generated four initial images for us to curate. This task requires a designer to narrow down the aesthetic focus and organize the images that help establish the design direction. This process can be repeated an infinite amount of times, even creating variations of outputs you may want to explore further on request.
Vizcom: Proprietary Design Development
While AI possesses remarkable capabilities, there remains an irreplaceable need for the unique insights and decision-making skills that only humans, in this case designers, can provide. However, these human insights can be further augmented through tools like Vizcom. Vizcom is a tool designed to take a quick sketch and prompt and transform it into a fully realized image. This capability can help industrial designers rapidly improve and refine their designs by adding dimensions such as shading, colors, and visual details. By taking the time out of tedious sketch work, designers can review more ideas efficiently and rapidly.
For this example, Industrial designers created a simple line sketch drawing of the shape they would like to see the popcorn maker. They then uploaded their popcorn maker sketch to Vizcom with the prompt “popcorn maker, red, glass.” Below you will find the original sketch and four different output results:
Each AI-infused program carries a unique significance. We found that using AI elevated our abilities to think beyond the expected to create compelling solutions with industrial design. Beyond Design’s willingness to adopt technological advancements helps us create products that resonate with users and push innovation forward.
Our next article will go in-depth and show an example of how to unite a lawn and garden tool with an established Visual Brand Language (VBL) to create a new product.
Product design is a journey of endless possibilities, with the only limitations being the design team’s imagination and vision. As product development experts, Beyond Design believes integrating AI into the product design process sparks creativity and encourages inventive designs.
What do you think is next for AI and strategic design? Let us know at email@example.com.