Industrial Design Definition History

In September of 1959 the first Icsid* Congress and General Assembly were held in Stockholm Sweden. The Congress was the first of what would become the largest world event in Icsid’s calendar – one that still continues to this day. The Congress and GA were restricted solely to Icsid members, which had already grown to 23 societies from 17 countries. It was on this occasion that the Icsid Constitution was officially adopted, along with the first definition of industrial design, which read as follows:

An industrial designer is one who is qualified by training, technical knowledge, experience and visual sensibility to determine the materials, mechanisms, shape, colour, surface finishes and decoration of objects which are reproduced in quantity by industrial processes. The industrial designer may, at different times, be concerned with all or only some of these aspects of an industrially produced object.

The industrial designer may also be concerned with the problems of packaging, advertising, exhibiting and marketing when the resolution of such problems requires visual appreciation in addition to technical knowledge and experience.

The designer for craft based industries or trades, where hand processes are used for production, is deemed to be an industrial designer when the works which are produced to his drawings or models are of a commercial nature, are made in batches or otherwise in quantity, and are not personal works of the artist craftsman.

The 1960s also witnessed a growth within Icsid’s membership to include a number of non-capitalist countries of the time. This changed Icsid’s outlook from being somewhat insular to being an inclusive and truly outward-looking organization that transcended political boundaries. In this sense, Icsid became a bridge between two worlds, where industrial designers from all backgrounds could meet, exchange and learn from one another. Icsid members relished in the spirit of collaboration that was inspired by the inclusive nature of Icsid’s work.

Icsid also continued to work on matters of professional practice during this time, adopting and revising the definition of industrial design, which read as follows:

The function of an industrial designer is to give such form to objects and services that they render the conduct of human life efficient and satisfying. The sphere of activity of an industrial designer at the present embraces practically every type of human artefact, especially those that are mass produced and mechanically actuated.

The structure and focus of Icsid was becoming much more diverse. Commencing in 1963, Icsid was granted special consultative status with UNESCO, with whom Icsid would subsequently work on many developmental projects, using design for the betterment of the human condition.  In 1969, a third definition of industrial design was proposed by Tomas Maldonado, it read as follows:

Industrial design is a creative activity whose aims is to determine the formal qualities of objects produced by industry. These formal qualities are not only the external features but are principally those structural and functional relationships which convert a system to a coherent unity both from the point of view of the producer and the user. Industrial design extends to embrace all the aspects of human environment, which are conditioned by industrial production.

By 1971, however, Icsid had removed any definition from the constitution in a motion passed at the Ibiza General Assembly. The motion symbolised a fundamental shift in the outlook of the organization.

*The World Design Organization was formerly known as International Council of Societies of Industrial Design