Beyond Engineering Design: What are the natural boundaries of design education and research for Canadian universities?

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Beyond Engineering Design: What are the natural boundaries of design education and research for Canadian universities?
  1 Beyond Engineering Design: What are the natural boundaries of design educationand research for Canadian universities? R. Woodbury School of Interactive Arts andTechnologySimon Fraser P. Côté École d’architecture, FAAAVUniversité Laval P. Harrop Department of ArchitectureUniversity of H. Rivard Département de génie de laconstructionÉcole de technologie supé F.A. Salustri Dept of Mechanical &Industrial EngineeringRyerson T. Seebohm School of ArchitectureUniversity of ABSTRACT Design is a key present and future contributor to thewealth of nations. It is a discipline in the sense that itis a coherent body of thought and practice, but inacademia is almost invariably distributed acrossdisciplines concerned with particular kinds of design.Successful design work involves many suchdisciplines. Contemporary design practicedemonstrates work organizations in which no onediscipline has privilege of priority. Several trends,including globalization, environmental limits,multiple clients and criteria, limited disciplinary perspectives, design tools, collaboration, disruptivetechnologies and changing patterns of designeducation point to an increasing scope both for theact of design in society and of the disciplines thatmust effectively interact on design problems. Animplication is a need for a corresponding increase incommunication and collaboration across all relevantdesign disciplines. 1. INTRODUCTION Worldwide, engineering and design schools have hadto accommodate an increasingly complex world.Technology is becoming both more complex of itself and is embedded in more complex ways into society.As the planet approaches natural limits of resourcesand population, design must also deal much morethoroughly with the externalities 1 it creates. It seemsvery clear that prior disciplinary boundaries work against success in complex design situations.Worldwide, several engineering and design schoolshave developed aspects of their programs to deal with 1 Used in the sense of an effect of an economic process on parties external to the process. the social, technological and process complexitiesthat so characterize contemporary design. For example, Carnegie Mellon University’s history of design research and education spans five of itscolleges, nearly thirty years, several large centres(DRC, EDRC, ICES) and has spawned a relateddepartment (Engineering and Public Policy). CDENrepresents a remarkable, and remarkably ambitious,national program of this kind. Its main aim appears to be to promote the development and the sharing of educational engineering design tools among all  Engineering Schools within CanadianUniversities. (CDEN website[1]) Few would argue about the importance of this aim tosociety or about the early success that CDEN isachieving in its efforts. The solution is a good one, but is the problem understood? Contemporary designwork is a nexus of finance, policy, business process,client relations, invention across many disciplines,engineering, marketing, sales and evaluation. Itssuccess depends on many disciplines and one of thegreatest sources of design failure is failure of interdisciplinary communication and collaboration.This impacts the CDEN effort in at least two ways.First, can the CDEN mission “to create initiativeswhich strengthen the design engineering communityand promote innovation”[2]  be fully realized withthe network’s current strategy of including other design disciplines as adjuncts to the NSERC Chairsin Design Engineering? Second, is the appropriatenational goal the improvement of engineering design,or the improvement of the entire design enterprise?This paper presents an argument that places CDEN asa critical part of a larger enterprise and makes positive suggestions for how engineering and other   2 design disciplines can work together towards better outcomes across design education as a whole. 2. CONTEXT  Everyone designs who devises courses of actionaimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. (H.A. Simon [3], p.129) Few today would contest that the design of anycomplex system necessarily involves multiple players. Yet this was not always so. For instance, inmany architecture schools of less than a generationago students learned that architects were the overall project designers and were served by the technicalexpertise of engineers. Thankfully, this arrogantviewpoint has not withstood the test of time. Todaythe reality of building design projects is that multipleacknowledged designers must work together toachieve a good building. Architecture is only one of the professions that may take a leading role. For example, in hospital design, the programmer (the person or persons who establish the design brief) plays a large role in and may actually lead the design process. Design projects are understood ashierarchies, with design work being done at everylevel of the hierarchy and with the relations betweenlevels in the hierarchy being a major source of  process complexity. Parochial attitudes do persist inthe various design disciplines, but thankfully areunder siege from reality: all design disciplinesinvolved in a project may be critical to success. Thereare many forces that promote this inclusive stance.Knowing that we are preaching to those that are bothconverted and sophisticated, we provide the barest of sketches for each below. Our intention is to arguethat all forces align towards greater complexity for design. The forces at play are: globalization,environment, multiple clients, limited perspective,design tools, collaboration, and education. These are presented below. Globalization The oft-used word  globalization identifies a large setof phenomena that affect the entire world. For instance, Friedman [4] (p.23) identifies at least sixmajor facets (and forces) in globalization: financialmarkets, politics, culture, national security,technology and environment. Each of these is asource of complexity for design projects. From asupply perspective, even something as “local” as a building is now often designed and delivered byteams of firms whose members come from manynations. Taking a demand perspective shows amagnification of both global and local effects.Objects such as the Apple iPod are releasedsimultaneously into markets worldwide, yet arelocalized to those markets in many ways. Morespecific designs such as motorcars and miningoperations may be intensely adapted to local context.Globalization creates both commodity labour markets(draftspersons and computer programmers in India),and specialized niches (stone cutting in Italy). Eachincreases the complexity of design business and process.For developed nations globalization increases thevalue of knowledge services such as design. In aglobal economy where comparative advantagedetermines the allocation of capital and operations,developed nations have little to trade on other thanthe education and knowledge of their citizens.Design, by transforming ideas into useful productsand services, is a crucial part of Canada’s future. Environmental limits There can be little doubt that humanity’s unintendedeffects on the environment are becoming moreimportant and more complex. Terms such as  sustainability connote the important design end of controlling such effects. What is clear is that effectsare neither fully known nor knowable in advance.Designers must deal with known effects in current projects, balancing them against scientific predictionsof future effects. The scientific predictionsthemselves change over time, requiring the designer to adapt and revise design solutions. Current andfuture effects both point to increased complexity indesign and increased expertise that must be broughtto bear on design problems. Multiple “clients” – the reality of multiple criteria Each design discipline is prone to the dual conceitthat it understands the scope and importance of itsdomain. Consider, as admittedly caricatured positions, the structural engineer who provides safeand economical building structures, the interactiondesigner who creates the end-user experience of anMP3 player and the architect who designs a newuniversity building. They are all parts of a multi-usecomplex. For each, normally exogenous criteria mayactually be the determinants of project success. If thestructural engineer is engaged in the design of a roof over the British Museum courtyard, then projectscope must expand to the visual reception of thestructure. The MP3 player interface design, however sophisticated, may gain no footing if the company’smarket researchers have misread a trend to combinedcell-phones and MP3 players. The universityarchitect may find his or her exquisite design built but unused due to an error in project politics andfinance.  3 The reality of design is one of multiple “clients” andcriteria. While a project may have one client in legalterms, it may have dozens of “clients” for which afailure to respond may doom the project. Each of these clients may be concerned with multiple andconflicting issues. Bringing appropriate expertise to bear on these issues requires more than just engineering  design expertise. The management of the participants needed to integrate the expertise in aneffective and cost-efficient way is another source of complexity. Limited perspective Herbert Simon and others [3][5] argued thatachieving recognized expertise must be measuredrelative to the span of human life. It takes at least 10years of study to become an expert in anything,simply because expertise is measured relative toothers who are spending their (usually youthful)years acquiring comparative expertise. Ten years isnot long when measured against the knowledge wewould like to acquire. An inevitable result isspecialization and the limited viewpoints that suchmust imply. Design does have concepts that applyacross its sub-domains, but each domain has keyconcepts and artifacts that simply take time to master.Chemical engineering has the process flowsheet,electrical engineering the study of signals andcircuits, architecture the organization of form, spaceand material. Each is crucial to the design problemsto which it applies. Design must producemultifunctional systems from a basis of limited, oftensingle-function, viewpoints.This motivates the need for design generalists, able towork effectively in diverse environments for the sakeof knitting together the work of design specialists. Design tools Design work is transiting to extensive use of digitalmedia and computer-based tools. This has profoundeffects on both design work itself and the products of that work. For instance, fabrication technologyenables the largely automatic manufacture and rapidassembly of products composed of many custom pieces. Design practice is seeing new accounts of design processes, new levels of prediction of design performance, new systems for designers, and newforms of design that are enabled by digital media andfabrication. Finding a dynamic balance between theintensive use of digital media and computer-basedtools on the one hand and the cognitive processes thatare fundamental to designing is an ongoing issue not just for practitioners (and so educators too), but alsofor design researchers.These digital tools allow designs that were not possible before. For instance, in architecture, theGuggenheim Museum in Bilbao with its curvedshapes could not have been built without the digitalmedia. Neither could the (much more restrained) roof of the British Museum courtyard. In such schemesdigital data are not limited to design, but aretransferred between architects, structural engineers,and fabricators. Collaboration. In a complex world of multiple criteria and limited perspectives, there is no master builder. Vision canand does come from any quarter. So does direction – design projects vary tremendously in how they areorganized as processes. This puts a high premium onteamwork and collaboration in design, particularlywithin teams in which members have distinctviewpoints and may have little common conceptualground.Design does have generic knowledge – there is muchin common in design work across disciplines. Sharedexperience and process can be important glue inholding together the parts of team. Clearlyidentifying and expressing this generic knowledge isan open design research issue, but also impactssignificantly on design education as it forms thefoundation for integrating design education acrossdisciplinary “silos”. Disruptive technologies Technology often finds application outside the spherein which it was invented. To the receiving sphere thiscan present as disruption. To IBM, the PC washugely disruptive – it largely displaced IBM’smainstay product line, the mainframe computer. Todesign, disruption presents as unpredictable change, both the project outcomes and design expertise thatmust be brought to bear. While disruptivetechnologies often lead to new arguably improvedsituations (consider the world without PCs), toomuch disruptive innovation will undermine economicviability. Balancing innovation through disruptivetechnologies against the stability of the technologicalstatus quo introduces another kind of complexity tothe design endeavor. Education Each of the above factors is well known. Each pointsin the same direction – to complexity of design practice and diversity in design teams. Further, itseems likely that a wider range of graduates will becalled upon to play design roles in their careers.  4 In some design schools there is a tendency to separatedesign research and practice into separate categories.The argument goes that bringing practitioners intoteaching roles in the school will enrich students’experience and better prepare them for practice. Withfew exceptions, such practitioners find themselvesmarginal to the main (and tenure-granting) stream of intellectual activity in a school: research. In short,school structure militates against inclusion of practicein the long run. The reality is that high qualityoutcomes follow from both practice and research. Animplication is a need for academics whom are leadersin design research. Of course, this simplyrecapitulates Simon’s book-length argument [3] for developing a true science of the artificial as a basisfor engineering schools. We note that Simon’sstrategy is somewhat different from the largelyeducational focus taken by CDEN. Simon advocateda programme to establish what he called a  science of the artificial  that would sustain design as a first classcategory in the academic disciplinary hierarchy.Diversity of scope, expertise, interest and argumentwill be a feature of the design education and research picture in Canada and elsewhere for some time. Fromnational economic and social perspectives eachdiscipline delivers important outcomes. Given thecontext above there is a clear premium on explicitcollaboration and design model sharing. The naturalscope of design in Canadian universities includesmany disciplines and both research, education and practice. 3. CASES We describe three cases that demonstrate howdistinct design domains are distributed across areas of expertise, education and professional organization. User interface design The May/June 2005 issue of the professionalmagazine ACM Interactions was devoted to adiscussion of who owns the so-called user experience. The first sentence of the editor’sintroduction captures the implicit conclusion of theseries of short articles comprising the issue. This issue of <interactions> addresses thecurrent “controversy” over who owns the user experience (UX). But is that a legitimatequestion or just a straw man? Can any one person or profession own UX? (P. Gabriel-Petit [6]) Authors of the twelve articles include businessowners (prescription: make executives and businessleaders aware of the value of user experience); teamleaders (good internal collaboration is essential); a Chief Experience Officer  (leadership can come fromany area of expertise); designers (position yourself within your organization); user interface managers(perfect your design process); a very senior inventor/consultant (the engineers control projects – we designers can win power by politicalorganization); an interaction designer  (we own user experience and need to work to get recognition for this fact); an information architect  (focus on the problem to solve and bring all necessary resourcesinto play); a technical writer (work in concert withothers to deliver effective communication); a usability engineer  (have a methodological designapproach and bring in needed resources); andrepresentatives from a user experience meta-organization ([7]) (network andunderstand each other). The experience of the user has become critical in many design problems, butremains only one of many issues that must beresolved in a successful design. Even so, it is clear that there are many relevant areas of expertise thatmust be brought to bear on this single issue, and thatdesign processes reward successful communication,collaboration and management. Sustainability in Building Design Sustainability labels a complex of criteria all of which have increased in importance due to resourcelimitations and environmental effects. The goal of so-called  sustainable design is to create design outcomesthat limit or solve current and future environmental problems. As a concept, sustainability suffers from both breadth and lack of clarity. The conceptnecessarily addresses multiple design criteria andthus brings all of the intellectual issues of multi-criteria decision making and the professionaldifficulties of multiple required sources of expertise.It remains an unclear problem, less because of muddythinking than because of the state of scientificknowledge of possible environmental effects.Research agendas into sustainability typically includecollaboration, multi-criteria decision making, digitalrepresentation and scientific study of the effects of design decisions. Many design schools have coursesor other taught content on sustainability. Each designdiscipline addresses the issue in its own way, andorganizations exist, such as the Canada GreenBuilding Council (CaGBC) ([8],which is a “broad-based coalition of representativesfrom different segments of the design and buildingindustry.” [9]. The CaGBC has adapted the US-basedLEED rating system (Leadership in Energy andEnvironmental Design) for the Canadian context.Interestingly in the context of a discussion on multi-disciplinarity in design, this rating scheme is  5 consensus-based. It provides weightings across fivecredit categories, each of which is typically handled by a separate area of professional expertise:sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality,materials and resources, energy and atmosphere andwater efficiency.A key issue for architectural schools (and perhaps for other design disciplines in building, such as buildingengineering) remains that the standard scope of thecurriculum is inadequate to effectively address theissues of sustainability. This is a problem of bothspace and educational opportunity in the curriculum.Without significant involvement of other design perspectives, it is hard to model a design process thatleads to effective sustainable outcomes, yet it is justsuch process modelling that is one of the corearguments on which project-based (studio inarchitecture terms) education stands. The NSERC Design Engineering Chair at theUniversity of Manitoba A caveat. In this section we profile the activities of the NSERC Design Engineering Chair (Ron Britton)at the University of Manitoba entirely from a perspective outside of the chair-holder’s department.We do this because the external view is that the NSERC Chair is making a positive difference todesign education outside of engineering (in additionto its mandate within engineering) and thus presentsan argument that the natural scope for designeducation extends beyond a single unit.At the University of Manitoba, the NSERC DesignEngineering Chair has generated a significant changein the role of the architect with respect toengineering, technology and industry. It has done sothrough its engineers-in-residence program, throughfacilitating industrial contacts and through access toChair facilities.The Faculty of Architecture has regarded the NSERCchair as both an important and necessary conduit tothe engineering discipline and as a significantinfluence on the institution’s ambitions in designeducation and research. While the NSERC chair often acts in the capacity of informal consultancy hehas served as an important member of faculty andadministrative searches.More recently, the NSERC chair has played a keyrole in the development of the future jointArchitecture/Engineering M.Des and D.Des degree programs. This joint collaboration is a reflection of an evolving pattern of mutual influence. While the NSERC chair is gaining an insight into the designstrategy of architecture studios, the architecture program is developing a significant shift in itsapproach to industry and technology. The shift istowards concrete realization of design ideas.Architectural education and research has traditionally placed a high value on imagination, generation of ideas and broad understanding of design situations.Architects often use the terms “experimentation” inthe sense of making multiple design proposals for subsequent critique and “indeterminacy” to label animprecise fit between a design and the problem it putatively addresses. The term “studio” can bethought of as a synonym for “project course”.“Experimentation” and “indeterminacy” play afundamental role in the way that architects developteaching and research agendas. Often technology isseen as a tool, to be played with in a free formmanner without a specific agenda. In encounter withthe more formal world of engineering design, suchopen and playful uses of technology seem to providea wide breadth of ideas and approaches. For architecture, engineering design provides theimportant imperative to make things “work”.The school of architecture has developed studio based research workshops around a series of industry,design and technology themes. It currently offersthese workshops in advanced product design, fabricformwork structural concrete and digitalmanufacturing technology.These semester length workshops are built arounddeceptively simple objectives: make a beam, create awall membrane or make a chair. The key is that eachworkshop promotes the free and liberal exploitationof usually restrictive or traditionally complextechnologies. As an example, students are givenliberal access to a CNC laser cutter and areencouraged to experiment and produce as manyanalogies of real projects as possible. The emphasis is placed on design and experimentation above problemresolution. Following this playful stage is anintensive period of analysis and post rationalizationof the artifacts that are produced: A re-conceptionrather than a preconception, if you will.Students develop an intuitive familiarity withtechnology to the extent that the traditionalengineering principles of theory, calculation and precision are logical (although difficult) extensions of a creative process. The moment diagram of astructural beam, for instance, is now a mathematicaland graphic confirmation of what they have masteredintuitively. This inversion of the traditional design process (which proceeds from idea to concretetechnical realization), opens the door to an iterativefeedback loop that can include the active participation of engineers, technologists and
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