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Definition of Design Technology:-

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Design and Technology is the study of the production of man-made objects.
These objects:-

Taking a photograph for yourself would be Art. To take the photograph for a particular purpose that will solve a range of people's problems, is Technology. To create a garden for a disabled person is Technology but to create it for yourself is Art/Science. The distinction appears to be contrived, but Design and Technology is about solving new problems for other people.

The production of these objects is carried out through the creative disciplined strategy called the Design Process.

Design and Technology differs from other Subjects as it is concerned with
"What might be".It is a truly creative subject.

Science is concern with the exploring and understanding of "What is". Science is not a creative subject at this level, you just study what already exists.

Society's needs are continually changing. Design and Technology is a fast moving subject where a correct solution today may well not be valid tomorrow. This leads to one of Design and Technology's problems in that there are only good or poor solutions at an appropriate time. There are no textbooks with answers at the back.

Purpose of studying Design & Technology.

Design Process

During my time spent as an Industrial Designer and a Marketing Manager, we used a system for producing our work. This system was similar to the Design Process with different departments responsible for different areas. The Design Process is 95% hard work and 5% Inspiration. The Marketing Department would produce a specification for a product from their research. The Industrial Designer would then produce initial ideas that would be developed into a working prototype with the help of Manufacturing. The Marketing Department tested the prototype, suggested modifications and then accepted the product for manufacturing and sales.

It was immensely satisfying to see consumers buying your products after months of hard work. The consumer tells you whether you are right or wrong, they have the final say, so test everything thoroughly and don't use your own personal likes and dislikes.

The Design Process is a linear sequence of events that has a start and an end point. (Sometimes you have to go back a stage if new information comes to light. In certain cases you may only look at one or two stages.).
Design is a problem solving activity that requires the precise definition of the problem at the start.
Design is concerned with decisions of taste, choice and sensitivity and relies on your value judgements. In Science you must not make value judgements, you must report what happens. Which is the more creative and worthwhile subject?

Designs can be idea-led, technology-led, market-led, demand-led or design-led.

The Design Process

1. Identify a Need. Identify a Need or Purpose in a given situation.
2. Design Brief. Produce a short Design Brief.
3. Tasks Schedule. List all major areas of work and allocate times and deadlines.
4. Analysis of Brief.Look at the Brief and produce a list of research questions.
5. Research. Identify and collate information only relevant to the Analysis of Brief.
6. Specification. Produce a list of design requirements found from research relevant to the Brief.
7. Generate Ideas. Generate a range of different possible solutions satisfying the Specification.
8. Choose Solution. Produce a solution to the Brief using the Specification and your Generated Ideas.
9. Develop Solution. Generate details necessary to make the solution.
10. Make Solution. Produce the solution.
11. Test Solution. Test your solution against the Brief and Specification.
12. Modify Solution. List modifications to improve the solution's effectiveness.
13. Evaluation. Evaluate the project against the Brief and Specification, giving recommendations.

Identify a Need

What is a need?

We all require food and shelter at the basic level, but after that we want different things because we all have different life styles. People use manufactured products so that they can do things. As people get older they want different things. It is the role of the Designer to find out what people want and produce solutions to their problems. It is said that a large manufacturer designed and made a range of eggcups for the Asian market. If they had done their research they would have found out that Asian eggs would not fit. The Designer must also establish where this need exists.

People complain that the product they have just purchased does not do what they wanted it to do. The need of the consumer is not being met by the product. This is the starting point of many "new" designs. Manufacturers spend fortunes asking customers about their own and competitors products to see if they can alter an existing product by adding new features to boost flagging sales.

NEED = What the consumer wants. This need may be real or it may be dreamt up by marketing department.

Choosing your Need.

  1. Some Examination Boards allow you to choose from a list of needs/situations.
  2. Some schools set a themed area from which you have to identify an area of need. ie. Area = Mechanical Toys. Need = Puppets who's strings don't get tangled up.
  3. A good point to start from is to list your interests and hobbies. You will already have a range of personal experiences to draw from and you will be motivated to design and make something you actually need.
  4. Talk to family, friends and relations to see if they have any problems that need solving.
  5. Think of situations where something has not worked how you wanted it to.

Avoid such things as speaker cabinets. They are very complex products that require a high level of technical expertise to calculate enclosure volumes. You will not have the facilities to test the acoustics, let alone understand the relationship between acoustics and materials.

Describing your chosen area of Need.

The external examinator and possibly a prospective employer are two of the people who will read your coursework folder. When they pick up your folder for the first time, you should give them a general picture of the area you are going to discuss.

Give some reasons why you have chosen this area of need. Then give general details of who would be the intended users and likely situations where this need for a product occurs.
Briefly explain that there is a genuine need for this product in quantities and that it is not just a CD rack for your bedroom.

Remember that you must give reasons for everything you write and for every picture you include. As the readers will not be clairvoyant, annotate your pictures/drawings and give reasons for everything you do. Write down every change of idea you have or anytime you modify anything. Some exam boards award marks for recording any changes to your design or thought process.

Look at the wording of the marking scheme from the exam board to see exactly how they are going to mark this section and only do what they ask for. Anything else will not be marked and you are wasting your time. It will also show a prospective employer that you do not have the ability to understand or answer a question.
Sometimes it is worthwhile looking at 2 or more needs/situations/users. Select the most interesting one that has the best potential solution and is the easiest to make in the time allowed. You may also have to carry out surveys and research to fully explore what is the exact need, who are the actual users and exactly where does this problem occur.
Another area you should think of in general terms is, what problems could you have when making the object and can the school supply the materials and equipment. These are called 'Design Constraints'.

Design Brief

This is a short statement of intent.
What are you going to do?

During all stages in the design and making process, you have to refer back to the Brief to check that you are actually doing what you said you were going to do.

Examples.

Design Constraints.

If you have no Design Constraints, you are not limiting the full range of possible solutions but it does make Researching and Designing more difficult. On the other hand, if you add too many Design Constraints, your brief and final solution will be limited and will reduce your creative input and enjoyment.

There is a general list of constraints that could apply and may have already come from your time spent researching your Need.
Processes, Materials, Equipment, Function, Size, Finish, Quantities, Safety, Cost and Time.

Analysis of Brief

Once you have written your Brief, it is possible to go straight to researching your ideas. But you will waste a lot of time asking the wrong questions and producing work that cannot be marked as it is irrelevant.

The purpose of Analysing the Brief is to come up with relevant questions to research. Never come up with solutions at this stage.

This is most probably, the most important section in the beginning stages of your design process. This is where you identify features of your Brief and expand your knowledge in relevant areas so that you can produce meaningful designs.

Too often, I have had to wade through 20 page of irrelevant junk only to give 2 marks. Four pages by another student gained 6 marks. Only produce what can be marked. If the marking scheme does not ask you for information on materials, do not include anything but you may have to carry out more research if you lack knowledge in certain areas.

1. Take you brief and cross out the redundant words leaving behind the Key Words.
    This will give you relevant areas to research.
 
    Storing --- Domestic --- Electronic Digital Storage Products.
    Storage system --- Bottles --- Domestic.
    Modern --- Doll's House.
    Containing system --- Small Mammals --- Domestic.
    Storage --- Transportation --- Displaying --- 12" vinyl records --- Use by DJ

2. Knowledge of the following areas relevant to your Brief may be required to complete the Specification.

  1. Existing Products.
  2. Similar Products.
  3. User Profile.
  4. Situation Profile.
  5. Function.
  6. Aesthetics.
  7. Human Factors.
  8. Manufacturing.
  9. Time Limits.

3. If you are ever in a situation where you do not know where to start, ask these questions.
    Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.

4. Write down any ideas that you have, otherwise you will forget them.

5. Brainstorm your Brief by using Bubble/Spider diagrams for different sections to expand your ideas.
    You can keep coming back to them to add ideas.

Research.

Research is the process of searching out new facts. Research all the areas highlighted in the Analysis of Brief and record all the information. Research is carried out in three stages; Collecting, sorting and then using the information.

During this time you will keep coming up with possible solutions. Immediately record them for future use in the Initial Design stage in case you forget them, but remember they may not suit the Specification.
Each time you come across an interesting fact you will want to explore it in more detail. Be very careful as you could end up spending far too much time on research. Always work to your time schedule.

When researching areas you may have to make models/mock-ups of features to tests if the facts are relevant to your problem. You might want to try out different materials and surface finishes. You have come across an idea for a mechanism and you may want to see if it could work in your particular situation.

Your Analysis of Brief highlighted areas that had to be researched and a good way is to look at them using the following nine sections.

1. Existing Products.

This is the first area to research. Never redesign the wheel. Take ideas from other people's designs. There are very few completely new products on the market today. They are variations of existing ideas dressed up to be new. A bit from here and a bit from there will give you a new product.

2. Ideas from other Products.

It is also very interesting to look at products that are used for completely different purposes but still have design ideas that could be used. i.e. A kitchen cutlery tray used for storing pencils.

Collect pictures of existing/similar products. If you just stick them on a piece of paper do not expect to get any marks. You must write information about each picture. You must justify why you have included the picture.
Try asking the following questions:-

What do you like about the object's colour, size and shape?
What materials are being used and what is the surface texture?
How does the object work, is it safe and does it do the job well?
Does it look like it is well made and fit for the intended purpose?
Could you improve its design and the way it operates?
Would your intended users buy this object?

3. User Profile.

Find out who is going to use you product. Old, Young, Tall, Fat, Strong, Weak, Female, Disadvantaged etc. How many want to buy your product and how much would they pay?

4. Situation Profile.

Find out where this product is going to be used. Inside, Domestic, Bathroom, Window Cill, Bicycle, Hot, Wet, etc. How often would it be used and will it effect its surroundings.

Both Profiles could be researched by writing a Questionnaire.

5. Function.

Find out how your product has to work. You may have to ask some additional questions in your questionnaire. Does the product work in a way that was not intended? The following are all areas that relate to the product's function:-
Main function, Secondary function, Special features, Product operation, Reliability/Durability, Maintenance, Health & Safety, Fitness of purpose, Ease of assembly. Historical developments, Operating instructions, Consumer benefits.

6. Aesthetics.

Find out what your product has to look like, its feel, taste and sound etc. You must ask your intended users what they want. You must find out how big your product can be. Will it show the dirt easily? Does the design suit the material? Is the design simple? Does it look like it will do the job? Make comments about small details of the object if they are important. The consumer will not buy the product if it does not look good or does not look like it can do the job.

7. Human Factors.

Find out if the intended users can physically use the product. Can they hold the handles, see the dials, pull the levers, open catches, etc. Use Ergonomic and Anthropometric data sheets.
You must also be aware of the effects of your product on the Environment, Economy and Culture.

8. Manufacturing.

Find out if you can make your object in School with your particular skills and knowledge. The following are all areas that relate to making your product:-
Resources, Materials, Processes, Production control, Test procedures, Quality control, Jigs & Fixtures, Quantities, Costings and Value for money.

9. Time Limits.

Find out when each stage of your work must be completed. Will some of the materials be difficult to obtain within the time? Does your completion date come at the same time as all your other subjects? Which is your priority?
Always produce a Schedule of Work and set target dates. You may be late, but you will know that you are! You then have the chance to catch up. You never catch up if you don't know how late you are.

Specification

The specification is a detailed list describing the problems to be solved. It should spell out exactly what the design must achieve. It must set out any limiting factors that will effect the final design and the way in which it is made.

The Specification is the section where all the research material is pulled together in a list of features and requirements for your final produce.

A specification should only list the requirements that have to be solved not the means for solving them.

The following list is an example and should be changed to suit your own particular needs.
 

1. Function. Purpose of the product.
Main features.
2. Appearance. Overall dimensions.
Range of suitable colours.
Range of suitable surface finishes.
3. Human Factors.Parameters for using the product.
Consumer Benefits.
4. Manufacturing.Range of materials required and available.
Range of processes required and available.
Techniques for manufacturing in quantity.
5. Safety. Safety requirements.
6. Time Limits. List Target Dates.

Cross Referencing Data.

The Specification must come from your Research work.
To help the examinators mark your work, it is necessary for all points in your Specification to be referred back to the relevant data in your Research.
Draw a vertical line down the right-hand side of your Specification sheet. Write in the Research page number where the data came from.
Go back to the Research page and write down the corresponding Specification point.

Generate Ideas

Produce 6 or more different initial designs to solve the problems set out in the Specification and the Brief.

Do not assume that the examinator understands your designs. Spell it out in notes for each initial design.

Write down how each design meets the points set out in the Specification.
Highlight the most promising features.
Add basic dimensions, colours and choice of materials.
Show how the product meets the requirements of the user.
Describe how the product is suitable for its intended use.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Sometimes it is a good idea to work out parts of the design separately if it is a particularly difficult problem. This may require you to make rough non-working models or experiment with materials, joints, etc. Record all this type of work, using pictures if necessary.

There is no point in designing solutions if you do not have the time to make it, it's too expensive or you do not have the skills.

Choose Solution

Decide on your final design using the Brief and Specification as the guide. It may be one of your initial designs but it can also be a combination of ideas taken from all of them.

Present your final design as a coloured 3 dimensional sketch. Use an Isometric drawing if you are no good at perspectives.

You must justify to the examiner how your chosen design meets the requirements of the Brief and Specification. Use plenty of notes in the form of short lists; do not write in a prose style as you will not have the room.

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Issue 46 - 1/2/05