Handicrafts, Industrial and Product Design

Designer analogy can be confusing. One may perceive one term to mean something entirely different. Like for example when we say Industrial Design, the majority perceives it as designing industries, which it pretty much is not. Similarly, the difference between Industrial and Product Design can be confusion per se. And then again we have a major ambiguity distinguishing between crafts and industrially designed products.

So how do we categorize the three? For determination of what product falls in which category, we look into the roots and the scope of the three terms. Crafts or Handicrafts mainly refers to hand-made (with or without manual tools) items, which are usually made with reference to cultural influences. They represent the ancient skill sets or the cultural embodiments of various societies in their design works. Usually handicrafts are decorated, even inlaid with semi-precious stones or gems to make them look pretty and appealing. Pakistani handicrafts are unique, with skillful art, inlaid works and delicate designs that embody the rich heritage that has been a part of this particular geographical location since ages. From traditional clothing to furniture, there is a huge variety that can be found within the handicrafts that Pakistan has to offer. Each province has its specific motifs and design elements which are evident in the works of skillful artisans and craftsmen, with items ranging from caps, furniture, jewelry, clothing and house hold products in materials like onyx, marble, clay, wood, metal and stones.

409472-HandembroideredSkullcapsinlayedwithmirrorcover-1342527067-948-640x480           bag handicraftimages       IMG_2352

All over the world, handicrafts embody a similar theme; the representation of a society’s culture. Take a look at Chinese and Persian handicrafts; each is a unique manifestation of its cultural identity and traditional roots.

Chinese Hand Fan
Chinese Hand Fan
Vases from Iran
Vases from Iran

By contrast, industrially designed products are items designed to facilitate people in terms of their functionality. Consideration in aesthetics is a major part of designing however the main objective of an industrially designed product is to deliver proper a specific function or a set of functions. Every line, every curve of the product is measured, drafted and recorded, in between which continuous product development takes place. Industrially designed products are manufactured to cater to the masses; the process initiates product conceptualization and modeling after which the final drafts are sent in factories or industries where they are produced on a mass level.

images (1)
A DSLR Camera
images (2)
Sports Water Bottles


Product Design is a more customized style of designing items. The proposed product does not always has to go to an industry to be produced on mass scale but customization of the design and aesthetics allow the product to be made for a particular individual, party, organization or so.

Corian Sink
Corian Sink
Wooden Lamp
Wooden Lamp

In Pakistan, product design has come a long way. From the unique traditional handicrafts that will always be in fashion, to industries producing everyday items on a mass scale, product design is blooming as more design firms and entrepreneurs are kicking in with. The field is being recognized in University of Karachi, NUST, UET, University of Gujrat and National College of Arts which offer degrees in Product and Industrial Design. So now we can identify and differentiate between handicrafts, industrial design and product design on the basis of their use and production. Hopefully, the discipline will receive more recognition in the coming years with innovative products in the market.

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