Design Engineering or Engineering Design?
Went to the Made in Brunel opening last week, Made in Brunel showcases creations from within Brunel University’s School of Engineering and Design. The show was held at the Bargehouse, four story building on the South Bank featuring an array of technological, sustainable, humanistic and virtual innovation concepts and prototypes.
Many wonder where the name Brunel comes from, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 -1859) who was a leading British civil engineer, famed for his bridges and dockyards, and the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; and a series of famous steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship. The school has a very good brand management program which is rare as a degree program.
There are a lot of works showcased in the Made In Brunel show and as always the quality of ideas varies. A few ones caught my attention including some concept explorations for Foursquare – the location social network by Chris Strickland, a graduate of product design engineering school. A number of mini appliance prototypes that allow people to play with information physically with their hands. By physically with the pods, people are able to combine different forms of content.
Foursquare Gaze has two components including the six Pods provide the interaction with up to the minute information and the Home which keeps the Pods charged and provides a safe place to store them. When each pod is taken away from Home, wireless connections ensure that they are kept up to date with the latest information. In this way the experience can be taken anywhere in the home.
Another interesting one is a concept to use physical items to manage utility costs at home (perfect for the modern couple) by Nick Sardar, a product design graduate. It is a physical interface (see photo below) where each cylinder is assigned to a financial aspect of your life. It is like open books household budget management.
There has always been confusions among people between industrial/engineering design and design engineering. And the same confusion applies to art school and design school which the lines are often blurred. Standford D-school was originally a engineering school, Brunel is an engineering school, Rhode Island is an art school, Arts Center is a design school, RCA is an art school but certain grad programs are more like design engineering school. The lines are fast blurring. Many students are confused.
Here are what the definitions from Wikipedia but probably can use some modifications: Industrial Design (ID) is an applied art whereby the aesthetics and usability of products may be improved. Design aspects specified by the industrial designer may include the overall shape of the object, the location of details with respect to one another, colors, texture, sounds, and aspects concerning the use of the product ergonomics. Design Engineering (DE) is a discipline that creates and transforms ideas and concepts into a product definition that satisfies customer requirements.
The definitions of these two categories of design have a fundamental difference between them: ID is an applied art, whereas DE is a discipline. This means that industrial designers have more room to dream, immerse, create, interpret or expand an idea than design engineers to design everything that they or their customers want. And for design engineers, the job is explore material, heat, modularity and other engineering constrains and at the end is to make it work. Many are still confused as to which one does what. Even prototyping means very different thing for each of the two. Although in some cases the line is not clear.
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.
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