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What do you think about design?

  1. Nov 27, 2006 #1
    Do you think we can actually learn to design?
    It seems to me that the ability to design shall be in-born.
    Like where to put the pair of gears or what kind of mechanisms to use.
    It is frustrating to see people with this ability but not me.....
    Why there is course about design then?

    Do you think those design methodologies taught in class really work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2006 #2


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    It definitely helps to have an active imagination, which some people have trouble with, but you need the education in order to know whether or not your ideas will work. (Not necessarily a formal education--I don't have one--but I do have a few books about things like cam design, mechanical linkages, structural materials and the like.)
  4. Nov 27, 2006 #3


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    There is some art to it, but engineering is largely science and designing things has a process that is learned.
  5. Nov 27, 2006 #4


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    The conceptual design process may be a bit more artistic or intuitive, but the real design and specification process is pretty rigid. Mechanical design covers such a wide area that one really does need a mentor to assist a person along the way.

    A phrase I always hear..."back in the old days" a person started off as a checker. That is, a person who checked prints for errors and type-o's and such. It was the lowest level. Whereas a lead designer was the top rung of the ladder. The designer came up with the design and made sure it met functional intent as well as other things. From that point on they passed that to draftsmen and then the engineers to make it all come together. When this path was followed, a person had s type of apprenticeship that gave them exposure to a lot of different designs. This experience gave them the foundation and showed how things were done.
  6. Nov 27, 2006 #5


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    Ditto what Fred said. Conceptual design really takes a lot of experience, and having mentors providing guidance is key.

    I think one of the things graduating students often have little appreciation for is how difficult it is to create a design that is both effective and economical. Don't worry about not being naturally proficient at it. If you enjoy doing that kind of thing, look to people that can explain how and why something is designed the way it is once you graduate. Learning doesn't end in college, it only starts there.
  7. Feb 10, 2007 #6
    A Design Art History prof of mine would start his lecture series by explaining Louis Henri Sullivan's assertion that "... form ever follows function.", particularly for successful designs. We would all think "well, then how do you explain all the stupid designs that appear to be successful (ie. sell well) yet have features that do not really add to their functionality?" Stuff like streamlined toasters, tail fins on cars, and so on. Then he would explain how every product has both a mechanical function and a social function. It was the social functions that would result in otherwise inexplicable designs. Typically, a social function would be a way to express something about yourself and your personality.

    Example: Build a high rise office tower. It says "we are cool because we can build it really tall and make efficient use of precious high-priced urban real estate."
    Build the same high rise, but place it at a 45 degree angle on a lot, which wastes 50% of the land. It says "we are cooler because we are rich enough to waste half the space and provide a bit of green park area for the benefit of all". Plus it attracts attention because it stands out visually.
  8. Feb 11, 2007 #7


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    But while that may be considered good art (if such a thing can be qualified), it would definitely not be considered good engineering design.
  9. Feb 11, 2007 #8


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    Engineering design (for function) and decoration are two different things, but they both have their place.

    The tower block is a poor example, if you want to separate the two concepts. For example, some "empty space" round the building may be an essential part of the functional design, to avoid problems with wind loads interacting with nearby buildings, or provide room for people to get out of the building in an emergency, or for fire and rescue services to get near it. If the empty space is required, it may be cheaper to cover it with grass than with concrete.

    IMHO concepts like "social function" are best left with sociologists - and whether sociology is science or snake-oil is another question.
  10. Feb 12, 2007 #9
    It doesn't have to be "science" of any kind, as long as it gets results (ie. the design firm gets more clients in the future), which makes it inseparable from the mechanical engineering, economic, and even political factors, to name just a few.

    Unless it's a Borg design.
  11. Feb 14, 2007 #10
    the previous poster..Danger.. put it correctly..imagination with the ability to find the answers. Where to look for resources. I designed Industrial automated control systems, ( I am retired ). The very first question that has to be answered..is what is the overall desired results. What do I want to accomplish. Then after that is decided (mostly by consensus if you are working under the constraints of management..the bean counters), then the process of Engineering & Project management begins. You have a Budget,(with an acceptible contingency for cost over runs..this always is necessary in the real world), Next you start from the desired goal and work your way out through all of the details. It's all relative in every field..it's a process. In my field electrical and mostly electronics..I begin by identifying the major processes that will have to be controlled..how they interact with each other, what are the safety concerns, (what can go wrong), It takes place on paper starting with priorities in an outline form. Then the drawings begin while incorporating logic and redundency, (sometimes 2 to 3 levels depending on how dangerous the process is ), Once the drawings are completed and the logic is sound..then the ardious process of Finding the right equipment,(hardware & software), to fullfill the logic's requirements. Drawing revisions begin to take place as the fine details are satisfied. All of the support hardware has to be determined..ie cable, tray, control panels have to be designed and drawn to scale..wiring schematics have to be laid out, valves, transmitters, bolts, nuts, etc. Next Contractors have to be interviewed and the Bidding process takes place for equipment and labor, ( this is a whole can of worms in itself a bid outline form depecting the scope of work for labor can be the size of a large magizine). Once that is completed and funds are approved for material and labor the contractors chosen and the vendors approved staging is next. When the equipment arrives it has to be staged in the order of sequence it is to be installed. Contractors have to be scheduled..then it is construction and installation time. At the end of construction, Prior to start-up.. a system by system power-up pre-test and check out stage takes place to locate and identify any problems. A punch list is created from this process, and problems are resolved. NEXT... IT'S SHOWTIME..start-up & commissioning... (lots of round the clock on site, running here and there, napping in your office chair, rivers of coffee indigestion stress takes place) Once up and running.. in the following weeks debugging minor gliches, setting control parameters, getting out a few kinks and removing un-necessary redundancies are usually the after project requirements... Hey..WOW..another succesfull project. It all works the same way..whether it's a Bridge, a power station, a refinery, A rocket ship..Each design engineer/project manager,(you have to wear a lot of hats), for what ever decipline he or she has expertise in has to go through the same processes to be successfull..dotting all of the i's and crossing all of the t's. When it is showtime you hope that all of your efforts and time consuming attention to details..leaves no i's undotted and no t's uncrossed....because it can cost tons of money..your career, and even cost lives if any detail is overlooked. You can't design in a vaccum or in a bubble and not be involved in the actual implementation of your creation..if you do.. it's a recipe for disaster and or failure. You have to be "involved" throughout! After you have done 4 or 5 and didn't tear anything up or destroy the plant..it becomes just another project with a lot of hard work. I loved and injoyed the challenge..every time, sometimes I miss it, sometimes I don't, I sure don't miss the stress... I now, (in retirement), go back to my teens and early 20's while in college as a Pop musician.. I write, compose, play, arrange, engineer & record music in my own private digital recording studio with a bunch of other over the hill rockers,( retired x professionals), who are loaded with a lot of pent up imagination with tons of time on their hands. You know, it's the same process with music also. Thats a lot of fun too, and you don't have to worry about blowing any one up if you make a mistake on a track..you just re-record over it until you get it right, ha, ha. Quite everyone... Take 5..ready....
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2007
  12. Mar 17, 2007 #11
    know more about design

    i am a chemical engineer.but i am keenly interested in the field of Chemical engineering Design.what can i have to do?plz rly.
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