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1.9 Design is …

Most design is routine: it's a job. It's people at drawing boards, working at computers, building models, arguing in meetings and learning by doing design work. The subject of design is broad and it takes place in all sectors of industrial society. Although there will be obvious differences between the knowledge and outputs of designers in the various sectors, there will also be considerable similarities in the way they design, the skills they have and the tools they use. It is for this reason that the examples used can tell us much about design and designing as it is found in many contexts. Today much designing takes place via managed groups of people rather than being the responsibility of one individual. The design and development of most new products is just too important, too costly, too urgent and too complex for one person to manage. Collaboration in design may take place between departments within an organisation, e.g. marketing, production, and engineering, and it can be seen between organisations looking to pool expertise and share outcomes.

As the preceding subsections have shown, there are different ways of looking at design. They are all perfectly sensible in their own ways, and they more or less fit together to give a coherent picture. Does it help an engineering designer to know the wider theoretical background to the discipline? Yes, for many reasons. Engineering designers work with many other kinds of designers, and can benefit from knowing that different areas of design have different traditions and emphases; a knowledge of design theory can also help to identify flaws in a design process. In the rest of this course you will see many examples of this, and hopefully get a good understanding of the phenomena we know as design and innovation.