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An introduction to design engineering
An introduction to design engineering

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An introduction to design engineering


Much of the world around you is designed in some way. Modern living relies on the products, systems and services created to support how we live. Design comes from the ability to think creatively – to be able to imagine ‘what if …?’ and come up with something that didn’t exist before.

Some of the greatest human achievements have come from creative design engineering, allowing the realisation of some truly remarkable change in our world. Design engineering has helped to transform the environment, create incredible super-structures on land and sea, and even helped people travel to, and live in, space (Figure 1).

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Figure 1 Examples of design engineering: (a) the Hoover Dam; (b) the Millau Viaduct; (c) the International Space Station

At the same time some of the smallest designs have enabled the biggest steps in the progress of humanity. The way people live has been changed by incremental advances in medicine, food production and many of the materials and devices people use on a daily basis (Figure 2).

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Figure 2 ‘Small’ design engineering innovations that have made huge contributions: (a) a disposable hypodermic needle; (b) a transistor; (c) Velcro fastening material

Design engineering has also developed many of the most important systems and services, from individual right up to global and universal scales. These systems have supported radical scaling up of human activity in a huge range of areas (Figure 3).

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Figure 3 Examples of designed systems and services: (a) a standardised component system; (b) a distribution and transport system; (c) a satellite navigation (satnav) system and service

Design can be the fashionable, eye-catching products and images you probably think of. But design is also the least noticeable (and often most important) services and systems. This course will introduce you to some characteristics and drivers for design, some of which you might not have come across before, and start to explore how data can be used to inform design decisions.

This free course, An introduction to design engineering, looks at the way in which engineers use ideas and approaches from the discipline of design thinking to inform their work. The complexity that people bring to design problems is introduced, along with some basic methods of dealing with such complexity.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course T192 Engineering: origins, methods, context [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .