Any product is the outcome of both the work of engineers and industrial designers. There aren’t many products that can be designed solely by engineers without designers, and vice versa. In a product design project, the engineers and the designers work shoulder to shoulder, and they both responsible for designing the product, but do they see the design work eye to eye?
Engineers are from Mars and designers are from Venus; they do not share the same background, and they do not speak the same language. They even think differently. They see products in very different ways and tend to misunderstand each other’s perspectives. Engineers see designers as unrealistic visionaries and designers see engineers as shortsighted technocrats. I made these two lists to help engineers and designers to close the gaps between the two disciplines and to cooperate better as a design team in a product design project.
What engineers should know about design
- A product is not measured solely by its performance. Today, a product’s soft-attributes act (in many cases) as the product’s USP (Unique Selling Point).
- Users evaluate design quality much (much) faster than engineering quality. When the design is not good enough, even the best engineering will not even reach the user’s engineering evaluation stage.
- Design is holistic. There is no such thing as a partially good design.
- Design is not a science. There is no way to “calculate” or objectively test the quality of a design or user experience. Sometimes there is no other reference aside from following the designer’s proficiency.
- Engineering provides the infrastructure that enables designers to design more attractive products with better user experiences. In other words, (in most cases) engineers should serve the designers.
- Fulfilling a designer’s dreams means harder (and more) engineering work, but it’s also a great opportunity for innovation and enhanced engineering.
What designers should know about engineering
- Engineering and product performance are the product’s basics. There is no such thing as good design with bad engineering. You cannot create great user experience with moderate product performance.
- Even the best engineer cannot bend the laws of physics. Engineering is based on physics’ laws and mathematical formulas, which cannot be modified just because we try harder.
- There is no such thing as easy and quick product improvement. Every little engineering upgrade requires professional work and takes time. Good engineering does not take shortcuts.
- Engineering quality is tested under extreme conditions and over time. The product’s performance is not always as it seems (here and now).
- In many aspects, engineering is binary – it’s either working or not working, has passed the tests or failed the tests, and there is no in-between.
- Engineering and product performance have their limitations. These limitations normally narrow the design possibilities, but they also can become a great design opportunity.
The Tower of Babel project failed when workers couldn’t speak the same language any longer. Fluent communication is a necessary condition in any team. Engineers and designers must learn each other’s languages and rules. Engineers should have some basic understanding of design, and designers should have basic engineering capabilities. Furthermore, they both should respect, encourage, and challenge the other for the benefit of the product design process and the product design.
On my next post, I’ll discuss the position of marketing managers in a product design project – what is their contribution to the product design strategy, how to cooperate with them, and the risk of a wrong R&D – Marketing collaboration. Get notification for this coming post.