What does it take to be in design engineering?

We interact with several products daily. Each has its unique design and features that dictate its functionality. Whether it’s a simple or complex design, the functional product undergoes a rigorous development process. The design engineer plays a critical role in formulating and actualizing product designs. Over time, companies and individual innovators have used design engineering to create incredible consumer products. Simply, design engineering is an adaptive process that combines scientific knowledge, analytical reasoning and mathematical concepts to optimize the shapes and sizes of products for optimum functionality.

Design engineering applies to all disciplines. Experts in manufacturing engineering, civil construction, the electrical sector, chemical processing facilities, textile industry, aerospace engineering and the built environment (architectural and structural) utilize design engineering at least once during the implementation of their projects.

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The design engineer is usually part of a large team comprising multi-skilled individuals working on a common goal. Their input dictates the direction of the development team. The design engineer requires several hard and soft skills to facilitate seamless collaborations and timely delivery of milestones in the product development process. Let us delve into the desired skills of a design engineer, their responsibilities in invention design and a brief outlook of the design engineering job market.

The design engineer creates technical drawings for consumer products

The roles of a design engineer

The industrial design company of the 21st century understands the value of consumer information and the need to establish experienced project execution teams. These teams comprise individuals with different educational backgrounds and professional experiences. In design engineering, a product engineer works closely with the design engineer. They walk through the product development journey, contributing to the conceptualization and ideation phases, prototype design, testing, consumer research and iteration of conceptual product solutions.

The role of a design engineer is unique. They focus on product designs. The ergonomic product you enjoy using every day at home or in the office results from several hours of work by a skilled design engineering specialist. They develop original product concepts, refine them based on consumer needs and create detailed designs that are functional and fit for production.

The design engineer does not stop at product designs. They play a critical role when it comes to rapid prototyping. Once they create technical drawings for different products, they prototype and test solutions. A successful design engineering professional has mastered the use of computer-aided design software. That way, they can develop digital product designs, perform simulations to evaluate real-life performances of different products, and test and validate sustainable and affordable manufacturing processes.

Engineering design works well if the participants have access to accurate data. That is in, form of customer preferences and trends, technical analysis of proposed product concepts and a strong validation of a consumer problem. It demands that the product development team undertakes sufficient research before, during and after the concept development phase. The design engineer is responsible for researching consumer markets and developing new products. Since they design products and systems, they research appropriate rapid prototyping methods that guarantee a quick turnaround time.

Why design engineering is vital for different projects

For any industrial design company, the road to success begins with  formulation and empowerment of a product development team. The team members should understand the role of design engineering in solving common consumer problems. Engineering design is a robust problem-solving technique that allows companies to navigate some of the most challenging projects. When establishing a design engineering strategy to fit the company’s business goals, ensure that it is:

  • Purposeful– ensure that each product development project has specific goals. Let the goals define the philosophy of design, major project implementation milestones and highlight designers’ prizes for completion of critical milestones.
  • Systematic and iterative– product design is a challenging process. The path to a functional product is full of hurdles. Whatever seems to work at the conceptualization stage may fail at experiment design and testing. The design engineering process for any company should lay down systematic policies that different teams should follow to address arising challenges and opportunities. Leave space for iterating promising product concepts and ideas.
  • Keep the process collaborative and human-centered– better solutions are found when innovators work in teams. Everyone in the team contributes based on their experiences. Each member has a different perspective and approach to problem-solving. The engineering design process has to be collaborative. Share research results with the team members. For the design engineer, the goal is not limited to optimizing product features and guaranteeing its fit for use. Every design needs to be human-centered.

Through engineering design, companies can replicate unique product designs. They can plan adequately for manufacturing and mass production. Using specialized design software means the industrial design company can experiment with different product designs. They model several products at once, test them and refine product designs based on the test results and feedback from the target markets. 

What it takes to be a successful design engineer

Innovation is driving operations in different companies. Each company seeks to excel in its line of business, developing functional consumer products. Top companies are scrambling to attract and retain the most skilled design engineering specialists. Some invest in training design engineers. These specialists possess strong analytical skills and a specific level of education. Aside from that, they require some soft skills to enable them to interact with other participants in the product development process. Here are some of the mandatory requirements.

Complete undergraduate studies

The design engineer needs to complete a bachelor’s degree program before working on new or advanced consumer products. To work as a product engineer, you study and attain a degree in mechanical engineering, design technology, manufacturing engineering or product design. Other design engineering specialists deal with architectural structures, urban planning or art design. They complete undergraduate studies and receive a degree in architecture, urban design and art design from a recognized institution of higher learning. These courses are offered in universities and institutes of technology. Usually, the undergrad courses are available in the school of engineering.

Design engineering requires the use of specialized CAD software

As a student, the future design engineering professional studies several courses. They learn how to use different engineering design software, diverse versions of CAD software, machine design principles, properties of engineering materials, manufacturing processes, mechanics of machines, and thermodynamics. These disciplines explain the interactions of different systems and enable the designers to choose between alternatives and develop the best product designs.

Attaining a master’s or doctorate in design engineering improves the professional prospects of the engineer. Higher degrees translate to better job opportunities with better pay.

 Complete hands-on training

The design engineer gains experience by putting theory into practice. They need to complete several projects to sharpen their technical skills. The hands-on experience allows them to interact and understand engineering design processes better. Gaining practical experience is not limited to post-school work. Some design engineering courses are structured to maximize lab sessions. Trainers formulate actual consumer problems and assign them to students. They solve the problems and present working products.

Design engineers gain practical experience through internships. They work closely with certified industry professionals to solve daily problems. Upon employment, the design engineering specialist owns the product. They become responsible for every phase of product development. 

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Acquire industry standard certifications

Design engineers must stand out in a crowd. Several thousand can graduate with a relevant bachelor’s degree, but few can endure the tough job market. A dedicated design engineering professional works hard after college and aspires for greater career heights past the entry-level training. They work hard to climb the professional ladder. One way to do this is by excelling at their work and acquiring industry-standard certifications. They indicate that the engineers are competent in their line of work and can lead product design and development teams. There are several certifications that design engineers can acquire to showcase their technical capabilities and competencies. They are software-specific certifications or certifications from professional engineering associations.

Desirable skills that a design engineer should have

As mentioned earlier, the design engineer requires hard and soft skills. They deal with different products and team members. Generally, the design engineer needs to be all-rounded. They are well-informed about consumer markets, emerging design trends, product quality and standards. The basic skills required from a design engineering professional are:

  • Creative thinker– imagination is a powerful tool. The design engineer needs to visualize the end product from the moment they identify or define a consumer challenge. They develop advanced products when they combine creativity and scientific knowledge. Having a creative mind allows them to generate several design variations, tweak ideas and navigate challenging problems. 
  • Good time management skills– the product designer needs to be fast. They need to appreciate that the industrial design companies they work for compete with several others from all over the globe. It means the designer needs to deliver a functional design within the shortest time. That way, they can control favorable consumer market share. When the designer delays, the entire project implementation team may fail to meet its goals.
  • Dependable team member with good communication skills– the product development process requires the input of different team members. Working in unison boosts the prospects of a new product in the market. The design engineer should be a reliable team member. They need to have good interpersonal skills, capable of accommodating the opinions of everyone on the team. They should know how to handle conflicts and differences.

Design engineering specialists require impeccable communication skills. They research topical issues, present findings and explain how designed systems work. The engineer should explain concepts and ideas simply through verbal and written media.

  • Strong technical and problem-solving skills– design engineers deal with several problems. They solve complex problems by piecing together mathematical and scientific concepts. They validate ideas and convert abstract information into visible product models. These professionals analyze consumer problems and develop potential solutions for virtually any problem. The entire process is tedious. It requires individuals with a strong mindset, swift analytical skills and broad thinking. The technical skills go beyond the use of CAD software. They should perform calculations, conduct physical measurements, read measuring instruments and build basic and complex hardware products and prototypes.

Design engineers use rapid prototyping to validate conceptual ideas

Design engineering job market

There are entry-level and professional-level opportunities available for design engineers. Companies hire depending on the education level and complexity of projects. The average salary for a design engineer is approximately $78,305. The lowest pay is around $24,000 per year. Established companies pay as high as $163,000 per year to their experienced design engineering specialists.

The role of design engineers is becoming more evident as the world gears for the fourth industrial revolution. There is high demand for high-tech solutions. Bridging the demand gap requires experienced engineers to work on advanced consumer goods. 

Studying design engineering

Local and international students can acquire a relevant bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctoral degree that guarantees professional development in design engineering. These courses are available in several state universities and institutes of technology. Prospective students can use a program finder to peruse available programs online. Peruse the course catalog and choose a program that suits your career aspirations. Contact the academic affairs of the preferred institution if facing difficulty finding a relevant course.

Summing Up

Design engineering is rewarding. It is a profession that begins with selecting an appropriate study course, attaining a degree and acquiring practical training. Design engineering follows design thinking principles and places the end-user at the center of all decisions. The design engineer creates realistic product models and prototypes, tests and refines concepts for new and advanced consumer products. The discipline applies to different engineering projects and proves beneficial in reducing project implementation timelines and enhancing the quality and functionality of products. The job market for design engineering specialists looks promising as more companies embrace human-centered design strategies. Several companies offer attractive compensation and salaries to attract and retain skilled engineers.

Acquiring professional certifications improves your industry rating and increases your prospects of better-paying jobs. Continuously develop your technical and soft skills to be a better professional.

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