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Soumyajit Ghosal

Soumyajit Ghosal is Director and Professor at the College of Design Studies, UPES, Dehra Dun – the only Indian university with international QS ratings.

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Design Ecosystem: Key to Engineering Innovation

The 21st century design context demands a dynamically networked team of multi-disciplinary consultants who work both individually and as a part of a diverse team.

Photo Credit : ShutterStock,

Great design can change lives. It can create better places to live, bring communities together and transform businesses as well as public services. Design is a way of thinking that helps large organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises, social enterprises and even charities change the way they work.

The design economy represents the value created by those employed in design roles in a wide variety of industries – from design-intensive sectors such as web design or animation, to designers and design engineers in automotive or aerospace companies.

Design has evolved to a new approach of developing business models. It has grown from being a mere function of styling or aesthetics where form and function are the focus to a process where design thinking is integrated into the development process. Today design has
become a strategic element and an innovation leading process.

The Indian design industry is on a maturity curve now. It needs a strategic and long-term direction to fortify the gains already made. Even though the industry is small at present, its economic impact is quite high as it helps major industry sectors by augmenting their business value and competitiveness.

Automotive and industrial design

Automotive design engineers (industrial, mechanical and electrical) create or improve motor vehicle structures, parts and accessories, engines and related systems. Designers are expected to complete a bachelor's degree programme in industrial design or a related field, such as mechanical engineering.

Automotive design engineers combine creative aesthetics with a practical understanding of engineering. Designers often interact with mechanical and industrial engineers to create designs feasible for production, and have knowledge of raw materials, engineering techniques and production processes. Automotive design engineers draw by hand and utilise computer design software.

The course work includes design principles, sketching, 3D modeling, design presentation and computer-assisted design. Art and industrial design history and engineering technology courses can provide a beneficial foundation.

Industrial design is a professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimise the function, value and appearance of products and systems for mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer. It is fast becoming a promising professional career option for those with flair for innovation.

A number of universities and technical institutions have started design programmes in industrial design to train new generations of aspiring students interested in specialising in industrial design / product design. The surge in demand for automotive and industrial design stems from the fast-growing Indian economy forging ahead at an annual rate of over 7.5 per cent, rising spending power in urban and rural areas, new introductions and the pace at which products are becoming obsolete.

The demand has also increased due to the expansion of design studios catering to offshore outsourcing. Many companies which earlier provided support to Indian design and manufacturing companies have moved on to engineering design outsourcing – particularly for the global automobile and consumer durables sectors.

The role of Indian design studios is changing from providing execution work (of designs conceptualised in the United States or Britain) to providing intellectual inputs. Many international companies are approaching Indian design studios for their intellectual inputs for products to be designed especially for the Asian region.

Moving up the value chain

Indian industrial design houses have also moved up the design value chain and are providing design consulting and forecasting services. However, some of the challenges faced by these companies include shortage of adequate manpower and lack of resources to scale up.

Nevertheless, their role will further evolve and move from executing strategies to shaping them – thereby paving a path for disruptive innovation. On the technology front, emerging virtual product design technology companies could leap frog to the final stages by simulating most of product development and manufacturing processes in the virtual environment.

Design institutions are realising the need to infuse entrepreneurial spirit among design students. There is pressing need of training and motivating Indian designers to take up design education as an alternate profession. Students should make informed decisions about design as a career at par with other professional qualifications.

How should companies think about design centricity? Design thinking can define the way an organisation functions at the most basic levels – how it relates to users, how it prototypes products, how it assesses risk. Companies today must contend with unprecedented technological and business complexity and that design can help simplify and humanise complex systems.

Complex innovations often encounter stiff resistance from intended beneficiaries and those delivering the new product or service, because they jarringly disrupt existing behaviours and business models. The solution is to treat the launch of a disrupter as a design challenge in itself – a process which is called strategic intervention design needed to introduce tangible saleable new-age products across the markets. Because design leads to innovation, and innovation demands design.

Design and IoT

Design and design research matter in new ways today. If rapidly changing climates, energy flows, material economies, and migratory populations are the emerging challenges of our time, then the design disciplines offer unique insight on how to navigate these complex, open-ended conditions.

Distinct from research in the sciences or humanities, design research involves highly interactive ways of thinking and learning through hands-on, cross-disciplinary and multi-media practices that directly engage the technical, material, spatial, ecological, political, economic, thermodynamic and planetary dimensions of design.

Seeking to empower the next generation of designers and urbanists chasing the government’s Smart Cities Mission and Internet of Things (IoT), some university programmes utilise a set of novel and alternative methodologies in a collaborative, immersive and multi-media environment.

These niche courses challenge conventional ways of learning – through field work, fabrication, collaboration and dissemination – in a range of seminars, workshops, initiatives, publications and ongoing projects through industry partnerships.

The 21st century design context demands a dynamically networked team of multi-disciplinary consultants who work both individually and as a part of a diverse team. Communication and collaboration across team members is hence not only important but inevitable.

New design is thus enabling Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution) for digitalisation, physical and virtual integration that demands meaningful convergence among digital tools, underlying processes and end-user behaviours.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

Tags assigned to this article:
Design Ecosystem Engineering Innovation

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