Why AI won’t replace industrial designers.. not just yet

Artificial intelligence (AI) has made great strides recently, but it still has limitations when it comes to replacing industrial designers. AI is a fantastic tool or reference for designers, but it’s unlikely that it will replace design jobs entirely in the immediate future.

Emotional intelligence

Industrial designers understand the emotions and feelings that people have towards a product. This requires a level of emotional intelligence that AI simply does not possess. An industrial designer needs to be able to understand the psychological impact a product has on people and make design decisions accordingly.

Creative problem solving

Industrial designers are trained to think creatively and find innovative solutions to complex design problems. This process often includes playing with materials and mock-ups, using real life tools. While some products can be designed in the digital environment, the majority still requires iterative testing, which involves prototyping and testing with multiple people, from the start, even before any design has been created.


The best industrial designs are the result of a combination of creativity, technical knowledge, and human intuition. AI cannot imitate this since this information simply doesn’t exist online and therefore can’t be fed to AI to be learned. An industrial designer spends years, even decades building their expertise through lots of trials and errors. Will an artificial intelligence realize that changing the shape of a product will affect its production method, assembly time and certifications? Dall-e and Midjourney are not able to do this. There is a chance that someone, somewhere is already working on a product development oriented platform, but this will require all related knowledge to be documented. As of now, the author of this post hasn’t seen a resource that contains this information. This will take some time...

Collaboration and communication

Industrial designers work closely with engineers, product managers, and other stakeholders to bring a product to life. They need to be able to pinpoint problems and preferences to define the right direction for the product. They need to understand the business drivers behind each product, and translate that into a design. AI lacks the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with others, make decisions, or overcome problems.

Why we still sketch

As of now, every AI platform works from text inputs. You write down what you want to see. But, in many cases we’re simply unable to describe, which is why sketching has been so fundamental in the design process; even 3Dmodelling hasn’t been able to replace it. We express our visual thoughts with our hands, sometimes very vaguely. A computer is not able to understand a bunch of scribbles, but humans are.


AI has a complete lack of understanding of manufacturing processes, materials, limitations, tolerances, clearances, surface finishes, cost implications, etcetera. A designer has an overarching knowledge of dozens production methods, which is further complemented by specialists. The physical world is simply out of reach for AI.


So.. what can AI do?


AI is a great tool to generate rough concepts, impressions of a product, which has a similar role to an inspirational mood board. We have to be careful with these generated images, as they are not fit for manufacturing. But they can offer additional ideas in the early stages of the design process.

Simple, well documented products

Non-technical challenges where creativity is not limited by requirements set by the brand’s visual guidelines, or by technical nuances. Examples are: vases, bags, glasses, shoes, furniture. We’ve seen lots of car designs popping up on various social media feeds as well. What is the chance that these will be made? Probably low. The reason is that these designs don’t match the style of any brand, or don’t align with the business and innovation goals.


Let’s make a test!

This was one of the briefs that we gathered from a client:

Design a bookstand that can be manufactured under €8 per piece with as little waste as possible. The material has to be relatively light, but strong enough to carry larger books, and it has to be stable even if a book is closed. The bookstand has to elevate the book from the table, as if the book was hovering. It has to be stylish and minimalistic, matching the contemporary interior trends.

See what happens if we type this prompt into MidJourney:

Four images created by AI


Maybe OpenAI can do better?

Four images created by AI

What a human can create from the brief:

Let's get started on your product idea

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