Between 2004 and 2014, design-focused companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Nike achieved 219% greater ROI than non-design-conscious outfits. This advantage is gained solely by utilizing the full potential of industrial design. While incorporating design in your business is a wise move, not every designer can help you achieve stellar results. We already separated the wheat from the chaff in industrial design by employing our rigorous, custom-developed methodology. For your product to benefit from premier design services, we curated a list of the most reputable industrial design companies you can hire. Just below the table, you’ll find a detailed explanation of the metrics we used as well as practical tips on how to choose the right partner for your business.
To curate a list of premier companies for industrial design, we go through a lengthy selection process. Using various qualitative and quantitative metrics, we narrow down our initial choices to firms that tick all the boxes.
The elements that play a significant role in our ranking process include services offered, technical expertise, creative expression, team structure, and of course, numbers. We don’t take these outfits at their word, but research how well their designs sell.
We evaluated all these categories, including communication, transparency and reporting practices, culture, and value for the price. Read on to discover all the phases of our comprehensive ranking process.
Due to the complexity of the process, some industrial design firms prefer to narrow their focus to a few domains (i.e., medical devices, electronics, beauty). Others might cater only to specific business sizes, such as small startups or corporate-level enterprises. We don’t consider this step in the final rankings, but for classification purposes only.
To determine which agencies are worth our attention, we go through their past work. Top performers rely on design thinking, meaning they start the process with a focus on the end-user. These professionals combine innovation with market demand to create products consumers can’t live without.
At the same time, industrial designers must craft products that are profitable for businesses. To check the actual numbers, we research how certain products designed by these agencies perform on the market, especially against the competition. This brings us to the next factor we evaluate: Are the firms reinventing existing products or bringing innovation to the market? While you might not necessarily need a company that specializes in new product launches, we award innovation with a higher ranking.
In general, successful product design has to tick many boxes, including functionality, appearance, and manufacturability. All these factors require an outstanding level of creativity.
In this phase, we contact past clients to check how well the industrial design companies visualized their ideas. Are the clients satisfied with the outcome? Did the firm exceed their expectations? What about the ROI?
Lastly, we examine how environmentally-conscious these agencies are. Are they sourcing minimum-impact solutions, materials, and manufacturing processes? Companies that promote sustainability get a hike in our rankings.
As you can see, we don’t just scratch the surface but apply extensive research to determine the quality of the concepts the agencies produce. We further evaluate only the most prominent designers.
Creating manufacturable products comes with a huge responsibility. When evaluating the industrial design companies, we ensure that the standards to which products are held follow the best practices. The firms must have clear standards for the quality and functionality of their goods. They must establish benchmarks that each product has to meet. They should also have the resources to test and ensure their products can pass inspections.
How do you turn something as abstract as company reputation into a measurable result? We employ multiple analyses to ensure we recommend reputable industrial design firms that come highly referred by peers and clients.
First, we explore their digital presence by visiting business directories, and social media accounts to source verified reviews and determine the quality of their services and customer satisfaction. If some issues tend to repeat, we investigate if the agencies took the time to address them and ensure they won’t happen in the future. In a few words, we value outfits that care and listen to their clients and share a mutual respect with competitors.
Industrial design is a complex process that requires diverse expertise. For this reason, we conduct interviews with top industrial design firms' employees and gather information about their structure. As a rule of thumb, the most successful teams involve project managers, strategists, engineers, UI/UX designers, branding experts, graphic designers, packaging designers, and manufacturers, all working together with the designers towards the same goals. While not every firm will house all these roles under one roof, ideally, they'll have cross-functional teams consisting of expertise that fully supports the industrial design cycle.
Companies should have designers communicating closely with engineering, production, and marketing teams. These experts should exchange sketches, technical drawings, mock-ups, concepts, final renderings, and prototypes. We give advantage to agencies with multidisciplinary teams since their collaborative efforts result in most successful designs.
After evaluating technical factors, we continue with assessing teams' culture. Industrial design companies that cultivate positivity, teamwork, and can-do attitude are the ones you want to work with.
To get a spot on our list, each company should handle all aspects of the industrial design process, including ideation, prototyping, and testing. We assess these commonly offered services individually.
Insights gathered during this initial phase set the narratives for the entire industrial design process. Although there are reputable companies that specialize in market research, we look for design agencies that can set a solid foundation for the processes that follow for those who prefer to get everything done under one roof. These outfits should be able to explore problems related to the target users, competition, and the market in general.
Then, the industrial design consultants should use the information to put together a product strategy that defines all the guiding points for design and development teams to follow. Some clients may also need a brand strategy that ensures the products are in sync with the overall brand identity.
The industrial design team should generate multiple hand-drawn sketches and drawings that further visualize clients’ ideas. In this phase, the industrial designer must update clients regularly and accommodate all the requested changes. You want a company that will take the time to perfect the design and provide feedback and approval before moving to more expensive visualization methods such as detailed illustrations and CAD models.
3D CAD modeling can enrich the industrial design process in many ways. It shortens the lead times for project execution, boosts the ability to visualize different design options, and increases precision. We look for agencies that can produce flexible yet accurate 3D CAD models that allow modifications throughout the process. Top industrial design firms have teams where one group of engineers is in charge of modeling and drawing, while others check their work to minimize errors.
Depending on their industry focus, agencies should house cross-functional teams that consist of engineers, branding strategists, and material scientists, all working together to create manufacturable designs. These professionals should determine the best ways to bring clients’ visions to life with the right balance between function and aesthetics. As a rule of thumb, the best industrial design companies know how to improve product quality while keeping costs low, increase efficiency, ensure worker safety, introduce sustainable production methods and materials, and comply with industry and government regulations.
Prototyping and testing are critical factors for success in the development stages. We featured top industrial design companies that can produce reliable prototypes. These samples allow you to detect all the areas that need improvement before the actual launch, helping you iterate quickly on different design concepts and reduce development costs and time. We also check whether agencies have the necessary resources to test the prototypes. Top designers create a robust feedback circle before proceeding to production and launch.
Industrial design stands at the intersection of creativity and technology, meaning there is a lot of room to apply data science throughout the process. Since data collection is easier than ever before, there’s no excuse for agencies to ignore the facts.
The industrial design companies we listed embrace data-driven design by employing different tests and data science algorithms. These metrics help them unveil hidden trends and other insights they can use to modify and fine-tune their concepts. Data analytics can cut unnecessary costs as these insights allow you to shape the product according to market and consumer needs before the launch.
User experience and interaction professionals can enrich the industrial design process tremendously. We look for the best industrial design firms with highly skilled UI/UX designers who investigate the psychology behind people’s behavioral patterns, emotions, and habits. These findings set the base for product appearance, features, and function that consumers will love, leaving the guesswork out of the equation.
Naturally, you want the best industrial design for your product that will make you money. For this reason, each agency should guide the design actions to profitable operations. This process includes crafting a business strategy that ensures your product will retain consumer loyalty and bring you the highest return on your investment. Since customers’ purchase decisions are mostly affected by price, design, and quality, your industrial partner has to figure out the most optimal variables of these factors.
Industrial design is one segment of the full product life cycle. If you need services that move beyond design, you might be interested in hiring multidisciplinary industrial design firms that can navigate you through the entire process. We evaluated the following extra offerings as they come highly requested by clients that use industrial expertise.
Finding a reliable manufacturer is a daunting task. Luckily, some agencies extend their services into manufacturing, helping clients move from idea to launch faster. Other agencies maintain close contact with reputable manufacturers, no matter if they are local or off-shore. They can help you find the right company to produce your goods without having to go through this lengthy process by yourself. In both cases, top industrial design firms need to prepare a manufacturing strategy that includes everything from sourcing the best materials and methods to keeping a balance between quality, cost, and margins.
It makes sense to have the same company that designed your product also create a packaging that will get it noticed. That’s why many outfits offer packaging design services, and some will even get your package produced in-house. Although there is a selection of specialized top packaging design agencies, you can always save yourself time and get everything done under one roof.
For this reason, we look for the best industrial design companies with diverse expertise that besides industrial design can create a cost-effective, attractive, practical, protective, and preferably sustainable packaging.
Top agencies have more to offer even in the post-manufacturing stage. Additional services such as quality control and shipping will save you time, allowing your product to hit the market faster rather than having to look for reliable outfits yourself. Depending on how well your product is received, the industrial designer should help you make necessary modifications, add new features or update the design as a response to customer reviews, and the latest technology and industry trends.
Towards the end of our evaluation process, we focus on transparency and reporting practices. We like to present ourselves as clients and ask the industrial design firms how they handle client communication and engagement. To get more insightful information, we also contact past clients and ask them to describe their collaboration.
As a rule of thumb, top agencies establish clean communication channels and reporting deadlines before diving into the actual work. They separate the project into smaller segments and report about the progress on a pre-arranged schedule. Of course, communication and updates can happen in between or outside of deadlines. The bottom line is to keep the customer in the loop at all times. This way, clients can request timely adjustments and avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary costs.
What budget should you set aside for industrial design services? Due to the diverse nature of the projects, it’s impossible to pin down an exact price. It all depends on what you need to get done, how much work it will take, and many other factors. If you want to bring innovation to the market, you must be ready to pay more for creative and experienced talent. On the other hand, if you need to mimic or update an existing product, you can get away with hiring a more affordable agency. Keep in mind that local and offshore companies will most likely have variations in rates.
In general, we ensure that all of the agencies listed above fall within the industry standards. We don’t base our rankings solely on price, but the value these outfits provide for the money they charge.
Sealing the deal with an agency is not a light decision. Even with a list of top performers in front of you, how could you determine which agency is right for you? The following tips will help you detect the best match for your needs.
Set your objectives and detect your challenges before interviewing the best industrial design firms. It will help you narrow down your choices right at the start. Do you need to create something that has never hit the market before? Or just a redesign of an existing product? What are your biggest challenges? For some, it might be industry gorillas they have to compete with, while others might need help with technical problems. Filter out your choices, depending on your unique situation.
Due to the complexity of the industrial design process, not every outfit can create the products you need, at least not successfully. You want to go through portfolios and case studies, and see whether these top industrial design companies have helped someone in your situation. You might also want to limit your choices to agencies that offer industry-specialized knowledge.
Don’t ignore the company’s culture. After all, you can’t have a fruitful collaboration with someone you don’t like. What you get is heavily influenced by how the company treats its employees, how they act, their core values, mission, vision, etc. Talk to as many people as possible that will work on your project to determine if you are a cultural match. The best industrial design firms embrace employee satisfaction, positive attitude, and teamwork.
Location is no longer a limit in the nowadays digital world. You can successfully work with any company, as long as you establish clear communication channels. However, if you want to meet with the people that develop your product in person, visit their offices regularly to test prototypes, and monitor the progress, consider someone near you. So, do you go global or limit your choices to local agencies? The decision will depend on your project nature and preferences.
It’s best to interview as many industrial design companies as possible and ask how much they’ll charge for your project. Compare the prices and pin down a budget that works for you. Then, you can eliminate the outfits that fall outside the amount you can afford. Lastly, review the remaining choices and pick the one that feels right.