Want to become the next Jonathan Ive (of iMac, iPod and iPhone fame)? Here are the courses and skills you need to land yourself a career as an industrial designer.

4 steps to become an industrial designer

From classroom to studio, portfolio to workplace, Swinburne has you covered. Follow these steps to gain the knowledge and real industry experience you need for a successful career in industrial design.

1. Obtain a qualification / Apply to an industrial design course

Swinburne’s 4-year Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design) (Honours) prepares you to work as an industrial designer of the highest calibre, focusing on new technologies and sustainability. In your Honours year, you’ll create work beyond the standard graduate portfolio with either a capstone project, or a stint in Design Factory Melbourne.  

Looking for a pathway option into the bachelor degree? The Diploma of Design (UniLink) could be for you. This 8-month course can help you transition directly into the second year of your degree. 

With our 1-year Certificate IV in Design, you would qualify to work as a junior designer or digital printing assistant and become eligible to pathway into the 4-year industrial design bachelor degree.

If you’re already an industrial designer wanting to move into a more strategic or research-focused role, consider a Master of Design.

2. Gain experience

Your future employers regard real industry experience highly. That’s why, at Swinburne, we guarantee it in your industrial design bachelor degree. Your options are:

  • Upgrade your bachelor degree with paid real world experience in a 6- or 12-month full-time industrial design placement.
  • Start CV-building with a part-time internship.
  • Work on industry-linked projects where you’ll collaborate in design teams to solve design problems or create new products for industry or community.

Practice making mock-ups in the ProtoLAB. Use state-of-the-art robots and CNC machines, 3D printers and laser cutters, metal and woodworking machines—everything to build and refine prototypes.

Hot tip! Look beyond what’s outlined above. Attend design events and chat to people. You never know who you’ll meet or what opportunities may pop up. Volunteer position at a design-for-good collective? Put your hand up.

3. Build your design portfolio

Experience helps you communicate with confidence. Your portfolio will prove you can deliver the goods. With Swinburne’s Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design) (Honours), the majority of your course involves project-based learning and the creation of visual artefacts. That means, you’ll start creating design solutions and case studies for your graduate portfolio, right from day one.

  • show your best work (quality over quantity)
  • tell a story—explain the context and the problem you’re trying to solve
  • show initial sketches
  • include working concepts and prototypes
  • present the final result and explain why you've selected it.

4. Join an industry association

The Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design) (Honours) is accredited by the Design Institute of Australia. After graduating, apply to become a General Member of the Institute.

After five years of working as an industrial designer, you may be able to upgrade your membership to Accredited Designer-level, letting you add the ‘MDIA’ post-nominal after your name.

  • Join the Australian Design Alliance
  • Or, as a no-budget first step, sign up for their free newsletters so you’re across industry must-knows.

Explore our industrial design and product design courses

Ready to dive into the structure and application details of our industrial design and product design courses?

Browse industrial and product design courses

How long will it take to become an industrial designer?

To become an industrial designer, you must complete an industrial design degree. At Swinburne, this is a 4-year course—three years of undergraduate study and one year of honours. In your honour’s year, you’ll work on end-to-end design projects or challenges at a professional level. This experience will burnish your CV and portfolio, helping you stand out to potential employers.

Quick facts about industrial design

Average salary


Job satisfaction


Job growth

28.4% more jobs by 2026

What skills do industrial designers need? 

Creative skills:

  • curiosity and innovation
  • design thinking
  • artistic ability 
  • concept development.

Technical skills:

  • 3D CAD (computer-aided design)
  • design for manufacturing 
  • rendering 
  • adobe photoshop.

Soft skills:

  • attention to detail
  • ability to take feedback
  • collaboration
  • problem-solving.

Study industrial design at Swinburne

Swinburne’s industrial and product design courses combine creativity and practicality, new and emerging topics, and balance classroom, studio and real industry experience. You’ll be more than prepared to carve out your own career.

Courses and study pathways


8-12 months or part-time equivalent 

Entry requirements:

Successful completion of VCE or relevant study and/or work history.

Career outcomes:
  • junior design assistant
  • junior illustrator
         * With the opportunity to continue with further study in industrial design
Recommended if you're a recent school leaver intending to pathway into our industrial design degree:

Diploma of Design (UniLink)

Recommended if you’re already in the workforce and are seeking a stepping stone into our industrial design degree:

Certificate IV in Design

3-4 years or part-time equivalent

Entry requirements:

Successful completion of VCE, relevant UniLink diploma, TAFE course or similar

Career outcomes:
  • industrial designer
  • product designer
  • model maker
  • design consultant.

Recommended course:
Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design Honours)

2 years or part-time equivalent

Entry requirements:

Successful completion of a recognised bachelor’s degree or graduate certificate

Career outcomes:
  • creative director
  • senior industrial designer
  • entrepreneur (build a startup selling your product design)

Recommended course: 
Master of Design

Why study industrial design at Swinburne?

  • Full access to Swinburne’s ProtoLab

    State-of-the-art fabrication and prototyping facility.

  • Work for notable brands

    Our industrial design graduates have worked at Breville, Dyson, Nura headphones, Blackmagic creative video technology and more.

  • Community-like environment

    Smaller class sizes, more 1:1 time with lecturers and tutors.

  • Free access to industry-standard software

    Free access to industry-standard software.

Frequently asked questions

Industrial designers are creative thinkers and doers. If there is a gap in need for a more functional, affordable, or user-friendly product, an industrial designer has the expertise to analyse the issue and come up with new of improved solutions. They're involved in conseptualising and manufacturing everything from cars to cutlery for people with physical disabilities, TV's to taps and everything in-between.

An industrial designer ideates, tests and makes objects for large-scale use. To start, an industrial designer consults users, clients and stakeholders to understand the objectives, constraints and opportunities of a design brief. 

Next, they come up with new concepts which they demonstrate through sketches and models. 

The industrial designer then chooses materials and production methods, making adjustments until the design is finalised. Following that, they document the final design, prepares prototypes, and collaborates with engineers on the manufacturing process.

As a general rule, you'll need a bachelor degree to work as an industrial designer. 

A pathway course is also a great starting option. Browse Swinburne's full range of industrial design pathways and courses.

In a nutshell, the level of technical know-how required. 

Industrial design creates for mass production. That means the design, material and manufacturing process needs to be easily replicated and cost-efficient. Designers in this space must understand how product engineering, business models and operations work. 

Production design focusses on the aesthetics of a product. The outputs of this process are usually small runs of between one to ten items. Product designers don't need to know about manufacturing processes or CAD (computer-assisted design). If you're interested, Swinburne also offers product design engineering courses.


Explore all industrial design courses

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