How Has Product Design Managed to Become So Pervasive?

{ ❓} – Product design: from niche to mainstream?

Photo by Vinicius Amano.

There have been few times in contemporary history in which talk about product design has been as pervasive as it is today. Once a rather niche topic of discussion, in recent times product design has managed to become an almost mainstream topic of conversation. 

How did that happen?

The reasons are, as always, numerous, as the factors at play in the broadening of product design’s reach are diverse. The first question that comes to mind is …

Has the Number of People Interested in Product Design Grown?

Or is it that, perhaps, product design just has a wider resonance nowadays?

It is most likely a combination of the two.

On one hand, it is undeniable that product design has with time become an area of interest for more than just professionals and people with a keen interest in this field. It has managed to evoke the curiosity of more than just design-heads and designers, a phenomenon that has both internal and external causes.

Internal Causes

Let’s start discussing the internal causes which have resulted in product design’s wider reach. It can be argued that that one of the moments which determined a generalised audience getting to know about product design is the launch of Apple’s first iPod back in 2001.

Apple’s iPod Classic. Photo by Ruijia Wang.

Before that, many people didn’t even have a clear idea of what product design was, and all of a sudden it almost entered the everyday vocabulary. Years later, in 2007, the launch of the iPhone followed. This is when even more people finally got familiar with what product design meant. Interestingly enough, at this point, the general public understood that product design had something to do with attention to the form and details and that form followed function.

At a time when Apple wasn’t even an idea yet, Braun was already leading the way with its revolutionary products. It could be said that Apple is a successor of Braun, and that Braun has been a major influence for Apple.

Braun T3 pocket radio, which inspired Apple’s iPod design. Credit:

External Causes

As well as external, there are of course internal causes which determined the success, so to speak, of product design.

Platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are arguably responsible for at least part of the spread of product design among casual users. As it is part of the very appeal of these platforms to inspire and influence, it is no surprise that a lot of design – be it graphic, industrial, interior or product – can be found there.

Pinterest is a great source of product design.

But what’s the appeal in product design for the common folk?

Is product design nothing more than a fad?

While the former question can be probably answered fairly easily, the latter is more challenging. Clearly, product design certainly is a fad for some, namely those people who will lose any interest in it just as rapidly as when they first became passionate about it.

Product Design’s Larger Appeal — Good or Bad?

This brings yet another question: is product design’s larger appeal a good or a bad thing?

It is, simply, both.

It’s good because a bigger interest is fundamental to bring more people to buy product design and therefore contribute to the sector, which, as a result of this, can then invest in research and development.

It’s bad because, just like it always happens when the Average Joe finds out about something and gets passionate about it, one of the possible consequences is the risk of that particular thing getting perverted and denatured.

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Gianmarco Caprio Avatar

Gianmarco Caprio / Content & Community Manager @ Phase

Content creator, editor and community manager at Phase.