Engineering Blog: What is Design Engineering?


What do Design Engineers do?

Design engineers research and develop ideas for new products and the systems used to make them. They also work to improve the performance and efficiency of existing products.

If you want a professional career in engineering, and are good at problem-solving and generating new ideas, this job could suit you well.

In this job you will need to be able to use computer-aided design software. You will need to be able to combine engineering and design principles.

You would normally need a foundation degree, HNC/HND or degree to become a design engineer. Relevant subjects include engineering product design, industrial design and computer-aided design engineering.

As a design engineer you could work in a variety of industries, ranging from electronics to synthetic textiles, on projects as diverse as the redesign of a mobile phone to the construction of motorcycle parts from carbon fibre materials.

Your exact duties would depend on the project but could include:

  • research – using mathematical modelling to work out whether new developments and innovations would work and be cost effective
  • design – turning research ideas into technical plans for prototypes using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-assisted engineering (CAE) software
  • testing – collecting and analysing data from tests on prototypes
  • modifying designs and re-testing – this process can go through several stages before a product is ready for manufacture or installation
  • reporting – writing or presenting regular progress reports for project managers and clients.

You might look at a range of features when developing ideas for a new product, such as:

  • usability and safety
  • strength and reliability
  • the ‘look’ and ‘feel’
  • efficiency and cost
  • maintenance and life span.

You would also have to take into account the environmental impact of new products, the manufacturing processes used to make them and how they would be safely disposed of once their working life was over.

Engineering is the application of science to problem solving. Design is the creative expression of knowledge…

Each word is important. A design cannot just be a thought, it must be expressed in some material form (sketch, article, music, text etc). To be ‘design’ or a ‘design’ the expression must be creative. For example it cannot just be somebody musing over say whether the sky is blue or grey. If the creative expression is one of ’emotion’ then we can say it is ‘art’. If it is an expression of knowledge then it is ‘design’. Most creative expressions are a combination of both ‘art’ and ‘design’. A sculptor will use his knowledge of clay and casting to ‘design’ his sculpture so that his or her intended emotion can be conveyed to the viewer as ‘art’. Similarly, a manufactured article (a product) will be mainly a manifestation of knowledge (design) but still with an emotional input to the form, appearance, packaging and marketing (art).

The subject of ‘Engineering’ can be divided into two activities of analysis and synthesis. Analysis (& research) is really Science or the study of materials, actions, life etc. to better understand our world. We can call it ‘Engineering Science’ if the study focuses on materials, processes and material actions. However, when we start taking this knowledge and applying it to improve the quality of life we are synthesizing knowledge. We are now being creative with our knowledge. This is DESIGN and is FUNDAMENTAL to ENGINEERING.