Monday, December 17, 2007

Elements of the Design Process

All design activities must do the following:
1) Know the “customers’ needs.”
2) Define the essential problems that must be solved to satisfy the needs.
3) Conceptualise the solution through synthesis, which involves the task of satisfying several different functional requirements using a set of inputs such as product design parameters within given constraints.
4) Analyse the proposed solution to establish its optimum conditions and parameter settings.
5) Check the resulting design solution to see if it meets the original customer needs.

Design proceeds from abstract and qualitative ideas to quantitative descriptions. It is an iterative process by nature: new information is generated with each step, and it is necessary to evaluate the results in terms of the preceding step. Thus, design involves a continuous interplay between the requirements the designer wants to achieve and how the designer wants to achieve these requirements.

Designers often find that a clear description of the design requirements is a difficult task. Therefore, some designers deliberately leave them implicit rather than explicit. Then they spend a great deal of time trying to improve and iterate the design, which is time consuming at best. To be efficient and generate the design that meets the perceived needs, the designer must specifically state the users’ requirements before the synthesis of solution concepts can begin.

Solution alternatives are generated after the requirements are established. Many problems in mechanical engineering can be solved by applying practical knowledge of engineering, manufacturing, and economics. Other problems require far more imaginative ideas and inventions for their solution. The word “creativity” has been used to describe the human activity that results in ingenious or unpredictable or unforeseen results (e.g., new products, processes, and systems).

In this context, creative solutions are discovered or derived by inspiration and/or perspiration, without ever defining specifically what one sets out to create. This creative “spark” or “revelation” may occur, since our brain is a huge information storage and processing device that can store data and synthesize solutions through the use of associative memory, pattern recognition, digestion and recombination of diverse facts, and permutations of events. Design will always benefit when “inspiration” or “creativity,” and/or “imagination” plays a role, but this process must be augmented by amplifying human capability systematically through fundamental understanding of cognitive behaviour and by the development of scientific foundations for design methods.

No comments: