In the last decades, industrial design has been increasingly recognized as a sector combining elements of both artistic creativity and economic innovation. Using a unique dataset encompassing information on 326 top designers, 242 firms and 935 products from 1913 to 2000, we investigate the main patterns of the industrial design industry. First, we analyze the worldwide evolution of the creative sector in terms of industry structure, changes in product materials and agglomeration dynamics of both firms and designers. Second, we provide a preliminary quantitative investigation of designers’ creativity life-cycles. The paper contributes to the cultural economics literature by shedding light on the relations between creativity and innovation in creative industries.