Great design, successful product

Industrial Design (ID) optimizes the function, value and appearance of products, so that customer buy higher value products and manufacturers gain lower production costs.”

One great example of how industrial design creates hugely successful product is the humble Jerrycan:

During WW2, the allied forces in North Africa transported fuel and water in square boxes, welded along each edge. They nicknamed these boxes “flimsies”, since they usually leaked.


The German “Wehrmachtskanister” was easy to manufacture. It comprised 2 pieces of pressed steel that slotted into each other. Most importantly, they could be welded together in one continuous path. In addition, rounded corners helped ensure these cans didn’t leak. The pressings were also indented on each side to add strength, without creating a stress point. Even the cap was designed for quick release, and remained attached to the can, so it couldn’t get lost. As the cans contained 20 litres, one man could easily carry a can in each hand. Three handles enabled a “bucket brigade” to quickly load or unload a supply truck.

The success of this product was obvious when Allied soldiers rapidly adopted captured Wehrmachtskanisteren, renamed them “Jerrycans”, and soon produced their own versions.

The design of the ‘jerrycan’ did not come about by accident, it evolved through a well defined process which considers; function, materials technology, human factors, economics and engineering all of which form the basis of the modern design process.

As products and markets have changed, Industrial design has evolved into a specialist subject which blends production engineering, materials technology, ergonomics, colour theory, and graphic design. It combines engineering with art; it bridges the chasm between technology and people; it is creative yet utilises a well defined process. The result is added customer value and reduced manufacturing costs.


The Olivetti Valentine typewriter (1969) designed by Ettore Sottsass turned, what was, a utilitarian machine into a must have of the day. It put Olivetti on the map. Using modern materials, new manufacturing process’ and clever design, Olivetti’s portable typewriter created a new mass market product category.

The Industrial Design Process 

Great industrial design is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration (to paraphrase Edison!). It is an understood, structured, and scheduled process comprising the following steps-

Next Steps

Products benefit from industrial design being integrated into the development process, especially at an early stage. Using Industrial Design will help you create products that achieve higher sales, and lower manufacturing costs. You can download a great guide to buying design from the Design Council here.