The basic difference between a registered design and a patent is that the registered design protects the look of an object whereas a patent protects the way it works.
Design registration protects the shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation of an object. Think of a teacup. You could protect both its unique shape and the pattern printed on its surface.
It is sometimes advisable to use both patent and design registration in order to protect your sole rights to market a product, e.g. a kitchen mixer, where you can use design registration to protect the shape and design and a patent to protect its functionality. Both aspects contribute to the commercial success of a product and both must be registered in order to prevent others from copying them.
Design registration has a place across most areas of industry, such as fashion, fabric design, furniture, homewares, packaging design, and machinery design. If it has a unique visual appearance and you wish to protect that appearance for commercial reasons, you should consider a registered design.
Find out more about protecting designs in Australia.