Design is both an art and science, a combination of the creation aspect of art and technical aspect of science. Engineers need to utilize both these aspects to be highly technical and creative. In this article, we will take a look on the basic philosophies of design.
What is design?
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A common misconception of design is that it is used only to make a product look good. However, design does not focus purely on aesthetics, but also the functionality and manufacturability of a product and its components. Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”. In essence, it is a work process that drives development based on specific customers’ needs, creating solutions for them.
In 1885, Karl Benz designed the first practical automobile – a solution that gave people a more luxurious experience in personal travel. It is the process in which ideas generated in the conceptualization process are translated to a working product.
What’s in a design?
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Designers often work with basic questions in mind – “Who is facing this problem?”, Why is there such a problem?”, “How can we make it easier to solve this problem?”. These questions guide designers to develop a product that meet the objectives. This is one reason why the initial idea of a product varies greatly from the end-product.
That is not all. A product, while having its own objectives, must also meet customers’ demands in order to be relevant in the market. This presents a challenge to designers as they will have to continuously improve and innovate previous designs to accommodate the current and future demands.
What is a good design?
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This is one of the most frequently asked questions within the design community but at the same time, one of trickiest to answer. A great design is not recognized through its looks but rather, its seamlessness. To many, a great design is achieved when the user does not notice its presence. Navigating the radio unit of your car must feel natural and unhindered. The rules and meaning of the elements should be understood almost instantly by the user.
According to German industrial designer, H.C. Dieter Rams, “A good design makes a product understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory”. He also claimed, a good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it. A good design can speak for itself, without asking the user to commit much effort – showing is better than telling.
Design also involves considerable research, creative thinking, modelling and interactive adjustment (using design-specific software such as CATIA) in relation to the practicality, demand and objective of the product. With these factors coming into play, the initial design will then go through a re-design to incorporate the results that were achieved during the previous stages. This cycle continues until the solutions to the questions have been found.
There are various stages involved in the design process such as exterior design, interior design and product design, all of which will be elaborated in future articles. Stay tuned!