"Design is Overrated" Elon Musk

Interesting, but …true.

What he is saying, in my opinion, is absolutely true! manufacturing is totally underrated and I think especially in the UK.
There seems to be a hierarchy (in wages and influence) where Design Engineering and Manufacturing are the dirty scum of the company.
There is nothing sexy about designing a production line, but production lines are horrendously complex! mould tool design is amazing, yet tool designers tend to be hidden away in a dirty office on low pay compared to the designers in the design studio.
I took some of our (studio) design team to one of our vehicle manufacturing sites, they were stunned, they had no idea how mass produced cars were made.

“Make your requirements less dumb.”

Hmm…You mean like requiring your new truck be made out of a metal that you don’t even know how to bend? Yeah, that’s a dumb requirement. Snark aside he’s not wrong, he just has a limited concept of where “design” can be applied. The physical design of the object itself is the flashy, consumer-facing part, but there are opportunities to build in efficiency, ease of use, etc. in every step of the process when you think about them critically. It sounds like that’s what Musk is getting at, he just doesn’t consider that part of the process “design.”

There is no original thought in what he said. This has been discussed over and over since the start of the industrial revolution. It is all communicated with a venn diagram of product leadership (tech, design, etc), customer intimacy (relationship, guarantees, etc) and operational excellence (automation, distribution, etc). All of which can be innovative.

Here is an article discussing this very thing 30 years ago - Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines

Now if a company’s culture favors one over the other three, I’d say don’t invest in that company.

Very true regarding hierarchy and respect for trade - but more importantly, how on earth could your team not have had any idea of how cars are mass produced? Where did those folks go to school?

Although his statements pertain more to SpaceX engineering design vs engineering implementation (in his mind, ‘concept vs thing’), I wonder if he would make the same statements about the importance of the design discipline applied to Tesla cars. If so, one might remind him that you can spend 90-120 days creating an assembly line with pre-assembly cells, QC, etc for a useless, ugly design or for a beautifully proportioned, appropriately designed and user-satisfying design - it’s how many you sell and how happy the customers are that are the important factors.

Funny. His humanoid robot is all design and no realistic engineering behind it. The description/requirements sounded very much like every other robot company out there…it will do this, and this, and this, etc.; sure if you want to make it 2x as big and 10x the cost. Oh well, at least he’s entertaining.

it is totally different between a rocket and consuming products.