More Collaboration Between Engineers and Industrial Designers Needed

More Collaboration Between Engineers and Industrial Designers Needed

The chairman of British Design Innovation (BDI) has made a public appeal for increased collaboration between engineers and Industrial Designers for the greater good of the UK economy.

Gus Desbarats stated that building a stronger knowledge-sharing alliance between Industrial Designers and engineers would establish a "great leap forward" in developing and commercialising new innovations, intellectual property and technology transfer within the UK. "Working together would lead to increased sales, stronger brands and more successful companies."

Desbarats, a highly-experienced Industrial Designer and mechanical and systems engineer, is also the Experience Led Innovation 'Theme Champion' for the Technology Strategy Board and co-founder of leading design consultancy TheAlloy. He has published extensively on how technology is changing best practice in the collaboration between Industrial Designers and engineers.

BDI believe that greater collaboration between the UK's world-leading creative design talents in both engineering and Industrial Design can play a significant role in driving forward growth in British companies. The organisation's appeal follows James Dyson's call for greater training of engineers and designers and Chancellor George Osborne's recent announcement of a £195 million investment in engineering and science to position the UK as a world leader.

"Championing UK technology needs to be balanced by the insight that companies like Apple and BMW have complemented their technological engineering design with significant investment in Industrial Design to become 'customer experience' leaders," Desbarats said, adding that UK Plc needs an industrial strategy that also recognises the critical role of Industrial Designers as experts in the human behaviour which ultimately determines the commercial return on most investments in technological innovation.

"There is a mutual lack of acknowledgement on the part of both the design and engineering industries of what the other contributes to the UK economy," he said. "Instead, each sector places itself in a separate box, rarely collaborating - and indeed, barely communicating."

In the real world, Desbarats pointed out, Industrial Designers need to work extremely closely with engineers to deliver the best balance of risk between 'will it sell and delight customers' and 'can we make it at cost and on time'. For UK companies to perform in tough global markets, more of them need to get this balance right. The current mutually exclusive positions damage both sectors as well as the competitiveness of UK Plc.

"Engineering institutions may not realise that Industrial Designers complement their humanistic creativity with a very high level of understanding of technology in general and manufacturing processes in particular," he said.

"Today's Industrial Design bears no resemblance to the inaccurate caricaturisation that it is just about pretty pictures or self-expression for its own sake. Our role is to address the risk of consumer acceptance as early as possible in the process, using a variety of tools such as ethnographic user research, experience mapping, and rapid simulation/visualisation techniques.

Modern best practice in Industrial Design also recognises our duty to engage constructively with all the downstream stakeholders, such as engineering. In our work, for example, the external 3D solids data created by our ID teams are routinely used by engineers to cut tooling cavities."

Desbarats explained that "Industrial Designers are not out to steal engineers' jobs; we want to work together with them to extend and commercialise products for everyone's benefit - particularly the consumer's."

Collaboration between the two professions would create greater knowledge-sharing, streamline the route to market and ultimately produce more successful world-class products benefiting everybody involved, from concept to end result, he said.