The Future of Product Design Education Industry 4.0

The Future of Product Design Education Industry 4.0

Jennifer Loy (University of Technology Sydney, Australia) and James I. Novak (University of Technology Sydney, Australia)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7832-1.ch010


When a society is undergoing transformational change, it is a challenge for all involved to step outside their immediate context sufficiently to evaluate its implications. In the current digital revolution driving Industry 4.0, the pace of change is rapid, and its scale and complexity can inhibit a proactive, rather than reactive, response. Yet if it were possible to return to the first industrial revolution, armed with twenty-first century knowledge and historical perspective, planning for a healthy society and the future of work could have been very different. This chapter aims to support educational leadership in the development of proactive strategies to respond to the challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0 to inform the future of work, industry, and society. This is framed through the lens of product design, with its unique position at the nexus of engineering and the humanities, and directly tied to changes affecting manufacturing in the fourth industrial revolution.
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Product design emerged as a profession during the eighteenth century in response to the drive towards mass production and the design challenges it created. According to design historian Adrian Forty, in his seminal book, Objects of Desire (1992), the earliest product designers in the UK employed by innovators, such as Josiah Wedgewood, were educated on European trends in art and architecture, as well as the reduction of a design into repeatable components. Production uniformity and aesthetic conformity became megatrends of the time and were central to design development, allowing manufacturers to produce standardized products within an orderly system of centralized manufacturing. The impact on the organization of labor, and subsequently lifestyle and the urbanization of the population, was relatively gradual. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, however, as Ford established the moving assembly line, the pace of urbanization changed with large-scale factories drawing in workers from large distances (Sparke, 2013). For designers, their role became increasingly constrained by mass-manufacturing processes and practices, with these being the driving technologies of the times. Design had to conform to assembly rules, and generally the lower the cost of components the higher the margins for business. For workers, the transition to working within a system where labor was divided to its most basic action became common place. The impact on the organization of society was immense.

The transition can be characterized as a shift from traditional hand production to massive industrial machinery and factory production. To a large extent it was stimulated by the invention of large-scale manufacturing processes fuelled by the discovery of new methodologies for exploiting the energy stored in huge iron and coal deposits. The subsequent access to apparently unlimited energy and human resources engendered by the rise of capitalism and individual and corporate entrepreneurship and innovation, marked a major transition in human affairs. The Industrial Revolution was the socioeconomic equivalent of the Big Bang. (West, 2017, p.211)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Product and Industrial Design: Disciplines tightly linked to mass production and the design of goods to be manufactured for consumption.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD): The use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis or optimization of a design in 2D or 3D.

Industry 4.0: Also known as the “fourth industrial revolution,” this describes the current trend for increased automation in manufacturing, communication and machine-to-machine and human-to-machine relationships more broadly.

Flipped Classroom: This is a teaching methodology that encourages students to access lecture material outside of class, devoting class time to hands-on problem solving and the application of knowledge. The teacher’s role shifts to that of a facilitator, and collaborative learning and problem-based learning are important features of the flipped classroom.

3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing): A digital fabrication technology that allows the production of an object by adding material layer-by-layer in three dimensions.

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