An In-Depth Journey Using AI for Industrial Design (Article 2/3)

October 18, 2023

Blending Technology with Creativity: 

This article will focus on how we incorporated Artificial Intelligence (AI) into an industrial design project. To test the limitations of industrial designers and AI, Beyond Design designed a Consumer Lawn and Garden category product in the CAT (Caterpillar) brand style intending to help clean leaves.

As a starting point for design research, industrial designers used conversational AI models, like ChatGPT, to gain market insights and conduct competitive analysis within the leaf blower industry. Designers collected data and inputted it into ChatGPT to analyze it. This research allowed informed decision-making by identifying industry trends, potential opportunities, market gaps, segmentation strategies, and product features. 

To illustrate, we asked ChatGPT to “perform a SWOT analysis on the electric leaf blower market” to frame our research. Below are the results formatted into a table.

Insights from ChatGPT helped write prompts to develop a “target end-user” persona with help from Midjourney. Information like the projected persona’s home, vehicle, and fashion enabled Industrial designers to “imagine” and signify lifestyle pictures to inspire the design.

Below is an example of the target persona for the leaf blower product:

Note: Human involvement is necessary to provide direction and focus on designing for the right target user with clear objectives.

An important step of the product design process is identifying key brand attributes, like Color, Finish, Materials, and Graphics (CFMG). Below is an example of a CAT Visual Brand Language (VBL) board.

The second step for using AI was to input the prompts into Midjourney to transform them into images. These designs reflect Midjourney’s interpretation of what a leaf blower looks like, even though AI has a limited understanding of what a leaf blower is or how to use one. 

Results ranged from traditional-looking products to ones with unique shapes and imaginative attributes. With each output, Midjourney created four images to study for design influence. To expand our design exploration, we ran the prompt six times, yielding 24 designs. We then organized the images based on which features caught our eye. Below are the designs generated by Midjourney:

Note: Most of the leaf blower designs lacked a nozzle. The absence of key product features in AI designs is where human imagination and creativity are unmatched. Industrial designers were eager to draw in the missing details to mold the AI image into a realistic product design. 

Our next step was to combine these efforts to create a high-tech, sleek-looking leaf blower, representative of the Caterpillar brand design style. The blower would include a frame, glass panes, and brand colors that mimic heavy-duty CAT machinery in a smaller form factor. Industrial designers added features such as a front handle for improved mobility, a collapsible nozzle for easy storage, and a front light to help users see in low-light conditions.

As the CAT Leaf Blower began to take shape, Vizcom made quick renditions based on our hand sketches. Further development included CFMG work to capture the comprehensive brand language for CAT.

The Vizcom files served as the final design proof before we created the 3D intricacies of the leaf blower in Solidworks and Keyshot. Once industrial designers construct the product in 3D, the product is ready to be approved for manufacturing. Below is an image of the CAD file for our leaf blower design. 

Going Beyond Because We Are Beyond Design

After completing a successful Caterpillar design exercise, our design team decided to take the design even further and ideate a product that has yet to be invented. Drones emerged as a compelling choice to revolutionize the capabilities of modern-day leaf blowers.  We harnessed the power of AI to envision autonomous drones that could scan and sweep landscapes with the objective of clearing leaves. The result was too literal, but it did deliver design inspiration and some laughter. 

We tried using AI again to create more drone inspiration, this time without the dogs, to explore additional designs. These new drone ideas paved the way for designers to sketch and envision their unique drone concept. 

Our team created a final design following the design cues of CAT with the support of AI integration in our design process. AI is a helpful tool in product design, but it’s a tool that requires extensive human refinement. It should be viewed as an assistant for the process, not as an autonomous product-designing machine.    

The design team created the flying drone leaf blower capable of functioning autonomously or in coordinated swarms to efficiently position leaves for cleanup. Below are two images of the final design: a sketch concept visualizing a collection of drones cleaning a lawn and a detailed 3D rendering of the drone design. 

This internal project tested how AI can augment the industrial design and product development process. Through experience, we have become more informed about using AI technology to ideate and design products. 

Thank you for reading our latest article. Look out for our next article that outlines seven reasons AI makes an excellent product development partner. And be sure to read our previous piece, Unleashing Creativity with AI, found here. 

Interested in discussing the possibility of AI-driven product design in your own projects? Contact us today at to share your comments or feedback on our AI and design articles.

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