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An Engineer's Alphabet of Thoughts on Design

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Charles Murray
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Blogger
Over-design
Charles Murray   11/8/2011 9:44:46 AM
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The comparison between over-design and over-eating is appropriate. There are hundreds of wristwatches, mobile phones and even PCs that are larded with extra features and software that seem to serve little purpose other than to cause unnecessary complexity. Someone needs to offer a class, "Slim Fast Product Design 101." 

Ralphy Boy
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Platinum
Re: Over-design
Ralphy Boy   11/9/2011 4:44:19 PM
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This slimming down the design has been a slow process for me to get a handle on. I will still at times go for a beefy look just because I want that look and not because the added strength or weight is important to the final function.

"Failure. This thing that designers want most to avoid should always be first and foremost in their mind. Otherwise, how could they design against it?"

I will allow that this includes 'Failure to design saftey in first'... Always at the top of my list.

 

Baldrick
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Iron
Re: Over-design
Baldrick   11/9/2011 5:50:24 PM
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Failure is a part of life and should always be regarded as an opportunity, something we must learn from.

 

Harmony is a lesson in stagnation. Discourse and dissent are the signs of a great team.

 

Neatness is a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), avoid these people at all costs.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Over-design
William K.   11/10/2011 8:50:59 PM
Right On Baldrick. Neatness is certainly a sign of inability to do anything else worthwhile.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Prototype
TJ McDermott   11/8/2011 10:11:36 AM
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I admit to thinking "Look what I have wrought!" when my prototype works.

Woody@DDLLC
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Iron
Judgement
Woody@DDLLC   11/9/2011 9:32:04 AM
Great A-Z overview on design! I would only add to judgement: Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement!

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Constraints
Dave Palmer   11/9/2011 6:04:41 PM
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Not long ago, I judged a student engineering project at my alma matter.  One team of students had the task of coming up with a solution to a manufacturing problem. (This was a "real world" project sponsored by a local company).  The solution they ultimately came up with, I thought, was a pretty good one.

Prior to hitting upon this solution, they came up with a number of other interesting ideas; however, these ideas were unworkable within the constraints of the manufacturing process.

When I asked the students about some of these rejected ideas, their response was basically, "Well, it was a good idea, but the company didn't like it for some reason, so we had to come up with something else." They didn't seem to be willing or able to think critically about the constraints of the process - or why something which might otherwise be a brilliant idea might not work in a given context.

Given that being able to think intelligently about the constraints of a system is one of the most important outcomes of an engineering education, I graded the students down for this.

(For what it's worth, they won the competition anyway).

Tool_maker
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Platinum
Importance of Appearance
Tool_maker   11/10/2011 12:37:29 PM
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Just as really attractive people are able to usually get the benefit of doubt, so too do attractive devices have the user trying to look for what is right rather than what is wrong. Should not be the case, but it is.

jmiller
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Platinum
Re: Importance of Appearance
jmiller   11/14/2011 10:40:10 PM
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I don't know if it counts toward looking attractive.  But often how tough a device looks has something to do as well.  The average consumer will shy away from a design that looks fragile, even if it can do the job.  If it looks flimsy it might now sell.

OhmsLaw
User Rank
Gold
S is for Standards and Specifications
OhmsLaw   11/10/2011 11:51:22 PM
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Although sketches are useful, it is perilous to begin a design with sketches before having created a full list of all the technical requirement Specifications. A design cannot be great unless it is Specified, Tested and validated against those Specs.  I would classify sketches under I for Imagination or R for Realization.

Ratsky
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Platinum
R for REALITY
Ratsky   11/11/2011 1:23:34 PM
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Reality is always at the very top of my list.  It includes so many of the other items as representing aspects of the real world of engineering and design.  Economics (costs and cost/benefit ratio), legal concerns, constraints of all kinds, recognition of the limits of models and simulations, market considerations, and so forth.  Dreaming is a starting point; implementation is where the rubber hits the road, and that will succeed only with an approach recognizing all of these real-world aspects.  This is one of the greatest shortcomings of engineering education today: students are not taught about the real world (neglect of so many fundamentals, especially physics and related areas like thermodynamics).

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: R for REALITY
Charles Murray   11/18/2011 6:31:48 PM
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Ratsky: I couldn't agree more. Reality -- in the form of cost, longevity, reliability and ease of use -- are my keys to buying a product. In a sense, all of those could be traced back to cost, since unreliable products that wear out early tend to cost more in the long run.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Apple seems to meet this list well
Rob Spiegel   11/16/2011 2:42:42 PM
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The trick to Apple's success may be a simple as paying attention to the principles on this list. Apple's products pretty much tick off these considerations. Apple really hasn't come out with anything new, but they've done a great job of executing this list of engineering principles.

Alexander Wolfe
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Blogger
Over-design
Alexander Wolfe   11/28/2011 2:43:38 PM
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I think the most salient definition is the one on over design: What overeating does to a person, over-designing does to a product.  The brilliance of Steve Jobs, who was not an engineer, is that he stood as a bulwark against overdesign. I suspect Apple's products will now suffer from overdesign as a consequence of his absence from the design process.

bobjengr
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Platinum
An Engineer's Alphabet of Thoughts on Design
bobjengr   5/3/2012 8:12:18 PM
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These are excellent points and provide guidelines that serve as a checklist for engineers and designers.  I do think that we are aided today with solid modeling and computational methods that greatly shorten the design process, if used.   One of the most fascinating technologies now in practice is computational engineering.  This science combines engineering, mathematics and solid modeling to provide predictive solutions to designs that would generally require typical "cut and try" techniques.   If I were younger (maybe much younger) and had it to do all over again, I definitely would explore all of the options with this technology.  Bob Jackson, PE

Greg M. Jung
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Platinum
ABC's
Greg M. Jung   5/18/2012 10:35:42 PM
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Great article.  Innovative memory tool to help us all remember 'what they don't teach you in school'.  (Pragmatic was a close second to Prototype on my list).

Walter
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Silver
Aethetics
Walter   9/25/2012 7:00:15 PM
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I find that a design that looks better works better.  I don't know why but I suppose a good looking product is a sign of qualtiy

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