Two professions divided by an un-common language - Using 'CoLab' to improve collaboration between industrial designers and engineering designers




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Engineering and Product Design Education 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. Having acknowledged the challenges faced during interaction between these two professions, a three year research program was undertaken with the aim of producing a tool that would remove or significantly reduce some of the problems. Working with a Ph.D student, the methodology involved a literature review; identification of problems via practitioner interviews/observations; definition of a taxonomy of design representations (35 in total); development of a design tool; and final validation by interviews and a design diary. The tool 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, interviews to assess the significance of the cards were 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 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). This paper provides an overview of the research methodology/outcomes and content/use of the system.



industrial design, engineering design, collaboration, visual design representations


Evans, M.A., Pei, E. and Campbell, R.I. (2009) Two Professions Divided by an Un-common Language - Using 'CoLab' to Improve Collaboration between Industrial Designers and Engineering Designers” Engineering and Product Design Education Conference. 10 - 11 September, 2009. Brighton, UK.


Research Institute