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An introduction to design engineering
An introduction to design engineering

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1.5 Design is about thinking around the object

There is another way of thinking about design that makes it much more interesting and challenging. The job of the designer (and especially the design engineer) is to try to think of the things that no one else thinks of. Designing involves creating something new, and this means that it will have new consequences. Designers consider these consequences as well as the design itself because they know that this will lead to a more successful outcome – problems can be imagined before they become reality, and other opportunities can be taken advantage of.

Consider a product being designed for an extreme or challenging environment. If only the product itself is considered and the context is ignored, it’s very unlikely the product will succeed. For example, in offshore design engineering, the nearest materials and backup are not very easy to access (Figure 9), meaning that the installation and operation of products really matters. The designer has to think about many different aspects of a design at the same time – installation, removal, repairs and maintenance, decommissioning – in addition to the artefact itself. When only the product itself is considered this almost always leads to other problems in the wider system, leading to costly failures and extended repair times.

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Figure 9 An offshore oil platform, an environment where the design has to consider more than just the product itself

Design is not simply thinking about an object, it considers what is ‘around’ the object – the context, operation, repair, or replacement. The best design results in solutions that consider more than simply a static object.