Procedures for the Conceptual Design Phase: A Comparison between Germany and the United States

By Christoph Maurer.

Published by The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 21, 2014 $US5.00

Without a doubt, the most important stages in successful product design fall early in the process. This paper describes different approaches to the conceptual design phase of product development. This paper will compare two countries: Germany and the United States. Both education of undergraduate engineering students and industrial practice are investigated. The author of this paper draws upon his experience in teaching design classes in mechanical engineering at both at German and U.S. universities and his considerable experience as an engineering design practitioner. The author interviewed product development managers at companies in Germany and the U.S. to explore their use of the conceptual design processes. The author notes that teaching the early stages of product development to future engineers at German universities is more focused on methodology and processes. In the United States, teaching design is more about being creative and overcoming individual constraints in order to find new and unconventional concepts. In Germany, process descriptions for this phase are available but they are not followed in practical work. In the U.S., most companies do not claim to follow a process during the early stage of concept development. Companies usually do not have written process descriptions for the concept phase, but if they do, they are vague. The concept of optimizing initial ideas in product evolution is typically a creative act which does not necessarily follow a certain methodology.

Keywords: Product Design, Conceptual Design, Process

International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice, Volume 7, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 21, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 597.983KB)).

Prof. Christoph Maurer

Full Professor of Product Design, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Munich University of Applied Sciences, Munich, Germany

Prof. Christoph Maurer has been a professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Munich University of Applied Sciences in Munich, Germany, since 1993. Prior to that he was director of the research and development department at EMCO in Hallein, Austria. He started his professional career at Draeger, Luebeck, Germany where he succeeded as senior executive of the mechanical engineering research department. He graduated from RWTH Aachen with a degree in mechanical engineering. His teaching areas are all aspects of product design. He is closely connected to the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he is running joint capstone projects together with students of his home university. His research areas are the early phase of product development, interdisciplinary cooperation, process management of administrative and productive processes in industry. He is listed as inventor of more than 150 patents. He is a sworn expert witness at court. He has worked on numerous consulting projects in German industries. He also is founding member of a research group on the “fuzzy front end” of innovation called better-ideas.net.