The new trend of innovation

Posted on 01/11/2019 by IED

The definition of design must evolve with the times, argues Colin Ledsome CEng FIED

In the early years of this organisation, most of the members had worked on drawing boards during World War 2. They had contributed to the design of the war machines, which had helped bring about the victory. They saw themselves as designers working in an engineering setting, rather than engineers who did design. This has always allowed the IED to have interests beyond the strictly functional aspects of design. Thus, the gradual inclusion of product designers (originally known as ‘industrial designers’) has been growing for many years.

Following the Finniston Report in 1980, the establishment of the Engineering Council – with a strong definition of what was and, by implication, what was not engineering – effectively divided the design spectrum. This was despite the mandatory requirement for the inclusion of design studies in all accredited engineering courses. A gap opened in course provision between engineering and product design. Only a few courses, notably the post-graduate Imperial/RCA joint course and an undergraduate engineering course at South Bank Polytechnic, continued the concept of a more inclusive approach.

Over the years, the engineering approach to design in courses has become broader and product design has been more accepting of the need for technical understanding for functional products. When the IED gained a Royal Charter, both engineering design and technological product design were recognised within the IED remit. We award professional recognition to engineering designers on behalf of the Engineering Council and to product designers in our own right. We are the only body with such a wide-ranging view of the design profession.

Now the evolution is continuing. ‘Design thinking’ has been a topic of interest in management circles for a while. Here, the tried and tested design methodologies are being applied to a range of projects with no physical product in mind. Now ‘innovation’ is being used to cover almost any activity which produces some form of novelty (see also article, p20). The IED will have to expand its concept of design without losing the essence of good, professional-level work, which lies at the heart of what we stand for.

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