Do engineers really "design" anything?

It seems a common mistake these days, as design has become the new buzzword from the business guys (we have to redesign the business plan) to the sales team. It is the new “innovation” (now nearly meaningless). Making it more confusing is that an integrated design team can find things to design at everypoint in the process. I am involved at the business plan stage all the way to the tissue paper in the box.

The Latin/Medieval Anglo-French root word of “design” is signum; to mark or designate.

1 : to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan

Devise and contrive, are synonyms of design … we could be known as Industrial Devisers? Better yet… Industrial Contrivers :confused: Or even Industrial Designators.

Ofcourse Engineers do design thats why the world we see have advanced from techonology to everything, but engineers are involved with numbers and calculations thats why people think that they can’t design and Product design is all about asthetics first whatever may be the concept. If engineers would have not designed than the cars you drive would have taken ages to come out of factory, Motorsports would have struck at 50 mph only, theme parks that you go and enjoy are mechanical marvels…and not to mention electricity, planes, computers, water that you get in your taps from lakes, roads are safe to drive because of their design and calculations behind them,softwares that you design your concepts…and many more…
Design or concept by any product designer may be very innovative but he can’t tell or achieve performance out of the concept; without engineers the product designers would have been only piccaso or michelangelo.

I can’t believe that whole post was one sentence long…it was like reading gibberish Faulkner

There’s a lot to disagree with here and I’m pretty sure anyone on these forums would fight tooth and nail against you on the statement that design “is all about aesthetics first” or that without engineers designers are just "Picaso or Michelangelo"s.

I know you’re trying to stress that engineers do ‘design’ invaluable technologies that we all use, but you’re also making it sound like designers are worthless or do frilly things without engineers.

I hope Linda you are a designer, so when you think of a concept do you start with exterior design or interior; example if you want to design a mobile phone then will you start with exterior or circuits inside it which is a role of an engineer to bring that concept to life…also Product design comes under fine arts(artistic stuff) that’s why one get BFA or MFA in Product or Industrial Design not engineering or technology degree…that’s why I said Product design is asthetics first whatever may be the concept and without engineers, material science or without advancement of engineering designers would have have been mere picasso or michelangelo because many concepts would have never come to life. You must need to think deep that will help you.

aspire- what parallel universe are you hallucinating in? My guess is that you are getting or will (if you are a student) get steam-rolled by the rest of your design team if you continue with an aesthetics first mindset all the time. Of course you consider the internal and external contraints. Design thinking is inside out and outside in. You design your system to be as simple and elegant as possible. If it is a turd on the inside, it will be a turd on the outside.

this made me laugh :wink:

Like I’ve said before a well engineered product will probably look good as well. A product that has just been restyles is a bad product and has no right of existence. So yes a designer should be a bit of an engineer. The inside does matter and must be ‘designed’, meaning asking the right guestions. Do we need this? Can we solve this in another way? How did other people solve this. Can i place this component over there. How does this all compare to my user-interface, etc… And the other way arround an engineer should also have an eye for beauty, harmony and simplicity. Again both do the same thing. There’s no big difference between a good designer and a good engineer. But there’s a big difference between a bad designer and a bad engineer.



It’s been said before. It’s the use of the word design.

Engineers design things.
This is a “product” that has been “designed” by an engineer with zero involvement with an Industrial Designer.
Aviary hawkeye-pipe-com Picture 1.png
This was “designed” by an industrial designer, and most likely was very involved with engineering.

Both are essentially machines to perform a task. One makes concrete pipe, the other takes pictures. Both are very engineer intensive, and both were designed.

Okay, ignoring the fact that both Picasso and Michelangelo conceptualized and produced their work themselves (you think engineers painted their work?), I think you are generalizing your statements way too much and are making a lot of assumptions. It’s the phrasing of your words that bothers me. I don’t think engineers would appreciate being called “technical stuff” like you’ve defined product design as “artistic stuff”.

Is it a bad thing that I like the above one more? :wink:
But it’s like comparing oranges with apples…but I do know where you are getting at.

That’s exactly the point. Comparing Oranges and Apples.

(By the way you should see that company’s completely automated concrete pipe factory. Only takes 3 guys to run the whole operation, the rest is done with robots and moving floors. Incredible.)

Wow. Sorry, but you are just wrong on all counts. Where are you coming from to have this perspective? I’m guessing you are an engineer who has never worked with a designer?..

Btw, my school of industrial design (B.I.D) was in the faculty of engineering.


We can all agree that engineers do different things then designers. So why are we using the same word for it. It simply comes down to that. This is why this thread exists. Engineers don’t design they engineer and designers design.
A car that is engineered by engineers is going to function and look much different then one designed by designers.
Heck the designer car may not run. But it’s going to probably give the user a much more pleasurable experience.

I couldn’t disagree with you more. Again a designer is not some artistic dude who draws some beautiful shapes and that’s it.
There’s many projects where a designer was asked in the last phase of development to slab some nice surfaces around a bad ‘designed’ product. This is NOT product design. A good product will be the result of a long and tedious product development cycle where lots of ideas and concepts where generated. A good designed product is innovative and the best it can be. To that you don’t have to be a designer. An engineer can do it to. People just think in stereotypes. Designer = arty-farty creative dude / Engineer = boring-lets-stick-to-what-we-know. I’ve met many of these stereotypes and they have never ‘designed’ a good product. So again there’s little or no difference between a good engineer and a good designer.

Think about this. Apple is well know for its design but lately they’ve been looking at their product like engineers. CNC-cutting, the most functionality in one piece, material-studies, etc…

Yet they remain superb designers.

A good engineer is a (bit of a) designer and a good designer needs to be (a bit of) an engineer.


These are some explanations from the presentation that We have given in the company where ID was not used before…
It’s not always easy to define the role of ID & Engineers in the design…

Engineering design
An activity where scientific techniques are employed to make decisions regarding the selection and use of technology, processes, materials to create a system or device that satisfies a set of specifications.
Engineering design concerns itself with solutions with little significance of aesthetics or visual order in the problem solution.
[Manufacturer or functionality centered]

Industrial design
It is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value, and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.
Design products, communications, environments :: the combination of all or some into tangible systems / interfaces connecting companies to their customers.
Industrial Designer takes professional interest in the wholeness of the product.
[User centered]

Manufacturers who are properly concerned with product quality will engage teams of engineering and Industrial design people to create products that work, look nice and are easy to produce

I think you are kind of off topic. You are getting at what makes good design and yes I agree it takes both engineering and ID to create a great design. That just reiterates my point in that what an engineer do and a designer do are different. You said and engineer can do what you consider to be design. But the outcome between a designer going through that process and an engineer going through that process is again going to be different. As stated above engineers take a scientific approach and designers take a user centered approach.

My example again you would have to agree a car made by just designers and a car made just by engineers are going to be different.

Summing up the above two posts:
“You need both to develop a good product”

But each must have some of the other inside him :wink:


The issue is that most engineers don’t say “I’m engineering that valve today”, they say “I’m designing that valve today”. That train has left the station and we have little impact on correcting that behavior. It leads to confusion, but it is what it is. We would be better served finding another word that serves us. I think many thought that was innovation for a time, but it too has been wrestled from our hands. At the end of the day, styling is a much more ownable word, but it does not fully describe what we do and it carries the extra burden of some negative baggage for some.

… You hit the nail on the head GURU!

The two terms are almost interchangeable. So how might they be different…?

I am a medical device product designer. I design medical devices for surgeons and interventionalists - talk about the need for “ease of use” and “reliability”! In my business these run in spades!!!

An engineer might leverage “mechanical/electrical functionality” in a design, where a designer might leverage user interface or “user functionality” in a product. Only in the last 10 years or so, have “functional” and “emotional” features started to blend and overlap in products. Personally I try to mix both aspects into my work, with great results.

Good emotional features, once regarded as “fancy shmancy, swoopy lines” are now recognized by industry as valid ways to generate user ownership and personalization - reactions which in turn mix with good functionality to become a “favorite device” with almost viral adoption.

Ultimately, a designer “engineers” functionality into a product to make it easy to manufacture and safe/reliable to use; an engineer “designs” emotionality into a product to make it intuitive, relax the learining curve, and generate personalization…

Perhaps there’s more.

How in the hell can a user have a more pleasurable experience in a car that don’t RUN? Oh i guess screwing in the back seat might be seen that way but really now.