Understanding the Engineering Design Process

By Donald Stanley Petkau and M. G. (Ron) Britton.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Engineering design is a process that occurs by the application of knowledge and experience within the influence of personal, corporate, environmental, political, financial, and “other” environments. The actual process of designing includes aspects such as technical knowledge, communication skills, project management skills, and experience. The best designers have that mysterious touch that is recognizable by many but repeatable by few. So how do engineering educators pass this knowledge to students? Design education in engineering is currently a number of short courses that teach the basic skills and require students to complete small design projects. This process adequately teaches design project tasks without teaching the process to design success. The difficulty is that it is the unknown quantity. Research studies have been undertaken to study the engineering design process by focusing on student design groups and engineers working on smaller projects. This excludes larger engineering teams as they design in the workplace with the difficulty being at minimum accessibility, confidentiality, and logistics. In this paper we will be discussing a research project that embeds the researcher in the engineering workplace of a large energy organization. This long-term study will see the researcher be a part of a number of design teams in all aspects but the decision-making. This research project has been initiated as an ethnographic study that will look at design teams, design team members, and the interaction within and between these groups. The study will include an understanding of the framework within which these teams make their design decisions. The project is attempting to identify the many steps in the design process and which of these steps have the greatest impact on the success of a design project. This paper will describe the research protocol and report on the preliminary findings.

Keywords: Design Process, Engineering Design, Engineering Education, Design Activity, Design Task

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.37-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 521.420KB).

Donald Stanley Petkau

PhD Student, Design Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Dr. M. G. (Ron) Britton

Professor and Associate Dean Design Education, Design Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


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