Computer aided design means both roles can now be fulfilled by the one.

Traditionally the Industrial Designer and the Design Engineer have been considered separate roles. The advancement of computer aided design software is opening up the opportunity for a Designer to gain the skill sets to consider him/her self to be simultaneously a Design Engineer and Industrial Designer. This has the advantage that they can have a fully holistic understanding of any given product design.  Often clashes between the Industrial Designers and Design Engineer’s way of working are apparent.  The Industrial Designer may design to make an item look good and function ergonomically, only for this design to be passed to a Design Engineer who then becomes frustrated with how the Industrial Designer has overlooked important factors, such as draft angles needed for Plastic Injection Moulding ejection, other mechanical factors such as clearance spaces for electronic components when including ventilation space needed, or correct material thickness to accommodate mechanical stresses. The Design Engineer may then make alterations to correct these practical errors and give the design back to the Industrial Engineer who then becomes exasperated when the essence of the design style had been compromised to the point that something has been lost.  If these two Designers do not communicate effectively to reach an understanding, this cycle can go on for some time, costing money and resources and causing a project to fall behind.  So a Designer who has learned to fulfil both roles has a great advantage in that both Industrial Design considerations and Design Engineering considerations can be considered and implemented in unison and without conflict, so making for a much more efficient process.

It seems to me that the Industrial Designer is often by nature inclined towards ‘right brained’ artistic thinking, whereas the Design Engineer works more in the realm of the ‘left brained’ logical mind. So until now they have needed to be strong examples of left or right brained focused individuals to be effective at their work.  Thanks to the introduction of advanced 3D computer aided design software a Designer who works as an all rounder with both of left and right brained thinking, can fulfil both these roles, so allowing for speedy design.  The CAD software’s capabilities means that this individual may not need to implement lengthy calculations associated with Design Engineering, as the computer and CAD package often does this work for the Designer.  It becomes more important that the Designer has a ‘good eye’ for geometry. This is an eye that has always been needed for the Industrial Designer ‘right brained’ understanding of geometric and spatial awareness.  Yet those who may not have a complete clear vision of the aesthetics in their minds eye can fiddle with a design within the CAD software until it looks good before needing to physically make the item without the need to have an artist’s freehand drawing skills, as the computer can always draw a perfect straight line, curves and perspective.  This computer aided freedom can result in fast development of product design with plenty of time for client alterations and inputs as needed while still keeping within a satisfactory time scale.

Leave a Reply