A key characteristic is that design precedes manufacture: the creative act of determining and defining a product's form and features takes place in advance of the physical act of making a product, which consists purely of repeated, often automated, replication. This distinguishes industrial design from craft-based design, where the form of the product is determined by the product's creator largely concurrent with the act of its creation. All manufactured products are the result of a design process, but the nature of this process can take many forms. It can be conducted by an individual or a team, and such a team could include people with varied expertise. It can emphasize intuitive creativity or calculated scientific decision-making, and often emphasizes both. It can be influenced by factors as varied as materials, production processes, business strategy, and prevailing social, commercial, or aesthetic attitudes. Industrial design, as an applied art, most often focuses on a combination of aesthetics and user-focused considerations, but also often provides solutions for problems of form, function, physical ergonomics, marketing, brand development, sustainability, and sales.
Термин «промышленный дизайн» был утверждён решением первой генеральной ассамблеи ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, Международного совета организаций промышленного дизайна) в 1959 году; термин «дизайн» является профессиональным сокращением термина «промышленный дизайн»