Integrating ‘Designerly’ Ways with Engineering Science: A Catalyst for Change within Product Design and Development

Integrating ‘Designerly’ Ways with Engineering Science: A Catalyst for Change within Product Design and Development

Ian de Vere (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia) and Gavin Melles (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-617-9.ch010


The fields of design and engineering both contribute to product design and development. Increasingly design teams require an integrated approach in environments where mutual understanding and respect replace traditional professional rivalries. These new synergies both enhance communication and understanding between designers and engineers and lead engineering into new areas of professional activity. Engineers are integral to the product development process, but change in product development and manufacturing requires new responsibilities; design engineers must assume a greater role to achieve successful product realisation. However, to be effective engineers must develop new skills; creative design ability, understanding of societal and environmental impacts and a human-centred approach. These themes, not typically addressed by engineering curricula are evident in a new approach to engineering education - product design engineering. This chapter addresses issues confronting product design and development and examines the emergence of this new engineering professional in response.
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It has been observed that the boundaries between the design and engineering can inhibit both innovation and successful product realisation, particularly in the product design and development milieu. “These two mindsets often clash as one seeks to broaden the scope of the problem, while the other is working to achieve closure.” (Fry, 2006)

In Engineering Design Methods: Strategies for Product Design, Nigel Cross notes that “the increasing competition for consumer markets and the growing awareness of the importance of design for the market has led to reinforcement of the view that successful design can only be accomplished by an integration of the skills of both engineering and industrial designers.” (Cross, 2000)

This trend is evident both in the traditional industrial design consultancy and in the manufacturing sector where there is increased demand for engineers who can operate effectively in a variety of environments within global multidisciplinary teams. Engineers, particularly those in product design and development, are now expected to creative, flexible and adaptable, responsible and human-centred designers. “In this evolving world, a new kind of engineer is needed, one who can think broadly across disciplines and consider the human dimensions that are at the heart of every design challenge.” (Grasso & Martinelli, 2007)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainable Design: Sustainable design addresses the ‘triple bottom line’, addressing the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability. It aims to counter negative impacts of products throughout their lifecycle with ‘cradle-to-grave’ philosophy that employ low impact materials and processes, and considers energy usage, embedded energy, design for disassembly to facilitate reuse or recycling, resource renewability, bio-mimicry and design impact measures (such as life cycle analysis). Sustainable design aims to support development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (United Nations, 1987)

Base of the Pyramid (BoP) - the other 90%: The base of the pyramid refers to the largest but poorest socio-economic groups; the four billion people who survive on less than $2 per day. These groups are not only isolated from the affluent materialistic lifestyles of first world Western populations, but are adversely affected by our development, manufacturing and quest for diminishing resources, and are the earliest victims of environmental degradation. Central to assisting those at the BoP are the principles of understanding, empowerment and respect, participatory development, mutual value and co-creation. Many of ‘the other 90%’ lack access to clean drinking water (1.1 billion), adequate sanitation (1.4 billion), healthcare and education. There exists many opportunities for design to contribute to improving the life expectancy and aspirations of those in need, through socially responsible design.

Rapid Manufacture (RM): Rapid Manufacture utilises processes originally known as rapid prototyping (RP) and employs solid free-form fabrication (SFF) to deliver three dimensional components. It is an additive fabrication method that utilises sequential delivery of material and/or energy to specified areas to construct a particular form, layer by layer. As this technology evolves, increasingly complex forms are possible, including shapes and assemblies not achievable through traditional fabrication processes. This ‘next level’ technology has the potential to revolutionise manufacturing with particular regard to localised or even customer manufacture through advanced ‘3D-printing’ processes.

Pedagogy: Refers to strategies of teaching or principles and methods of instruction, sometimes referred to as ‘the art of teaching’. It is effectively an array of teaching strategies that support the learning experience, through a well considered approach to curriculum development that empowers the teacher, student and learning experience. In this chapter, pedagogy is used as a broad descriptive term when describing the teaching strategies and curricula of the product design engineering paradigm.

Project Based Learning (PjBL): An experiential learning process that involves the use of classroom projects to stimulate deep learning through enquiry and experimentation. In the context of design education it involves the students undertaking a design process in response to a detailed brief usually in a way that replicates real world professional practice. Project bases learning requires students to engage in design activities including conceptualisation, reflection, problem solving and exploration of possible solutions and detail resolution. The learning process is defined partly by the final artefact (design) and the success of the methods applied. In the context of teaching engineering design, PjBL allows students to integrate scientific knowledge into a solution-focussed approach encouraging ‘learning through doing’ which entails increased knowledge retention, and facilitates development of skills in the ‘practice’ of engineering’ rather than relying on memorisation of theory.

Open-Ended Problems: Facilitate the development of creative problem solving skills. They are typically ill-defined problems that do not have an obvious single correct answer, and require a unique solution that emerges from a creative process. Open ended problems often require intuitive responses from students and the acceptance of the unexpected, which can cause discomfort for those with underdeveloped critical thinking or creative ability. It is critical that designers and engineers experience many of these ‘wicked’ problems throughout their education in order to develop problem framing skills, confidence in divergent thinking, and lose the tendency to fixate on prior solutions.

Socially Responsible Design (SRD): The use of design to address social, environmental, economic issues and focuses on a move to move beyond first world consumer demands towards a more holistic and responsible approach to product design that embraces ethical, cultural and humanitarian values; simply termed ‘design for good’ or ‘design for need’. SRD responds to all stakeholders (not just clients and customers) and examines the consequences of design activity and the potential for design to contribute positively to societal aspirations and expectations, health and lifestyle.

Product Design Engineering (PDE): Product design engineering is an educational pedagogy and professional engineering paradigm, which seeks to integrate two disparate and traditionally rival professions; mechanical engineering and industrial design. Product design engineers are a new breed’ of design engineer, interdisciplinary, creative and human centred, and highly skilled in the product design and development arena.

Creativity: A process that involves generation of new ideas and concepts; resulting in unique, innovative approaches and solutions. Creativity is an essential element of design thinking and depends on confidence to explore the unfamiliar, tolerate the unexpected and encourage the unknown. Creativity is an expressive and personal process that involves divergent thinking, exploration and reflection and at times relies on intuitive action.

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