The Development of a Design Tool to Improve Collaboration between Industrial Designers and Engineering Designers




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Eighth European Academy of Design International Conference



Peer reviewed



As two distinct professions working in the field of New Product Development (NPD), difficulties encountered during collaboration between industrial designers and engineering designers are widespread and well documented (Persson and Warell 2003, Cross 1985, Kim 2006). Having acknowledged the challenges faced during interaction between these two professions, the authors undertook a three year research programme to produce a tool that would remove or significantly reduce some of the problems encountered. Working with a PhD student, the methodology employed by the research team involved a literature review; identification of problems via practitioner interviews/observations; definition of a taxonomy of design representations (34 in total); development of a design tool; and final validation by interviews and design diary. The paper describes the development and nature of the design tool, called ‘CoLab’ which comprises a set of cards divided into three packs. The central feature of each pack is the provision of information on the role and significance of design representations used during NPD. When employed, the cards facilitate the use of a common vocabulary, creating shared knowledge and empathy towards the related yet distinct working practices of each group. Following a pilot validation and minor modifications, interviews to assess the significance of the cards was undertaken with 29 industrial designers and 36 engineering designers. Many of the interviewees were senior designers from multinational companies. Having employed the cards, when asked if the Colab system would foster enhanced collaboration, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 68% of industrial designers giving a positive response (27% neutral) and 63% of engineering designers (37% neutral).



industrial design, engineering design, collaboration, design tool


Evans, M.A., Pei, E. and Campbell, R.I. (2009) The Development of a Design Tool to Improve Collaboration between Industrial Designers and Engineering Designers. Proceedings of the Eighth European Academy of Design International Conference, Malins, J., Robert Gordon University, Design Connexity, Robert Gordon University, UK, 2009, pp 161-165


Research Institute