Design done without designers

Mechanical engineers have a greater degree of control over the design and development of new manufactured products than any other participating discipline, including marketing and industrial design.

This is one of the findings of a research project carried out by Brian Holdstock in the pursuit of his degree as Doctor of Philosophy. Holdstock, also managing director of Newmark Precision Finishes, conducted a survey among 60 companies which manufacture consumer or household products, each traced the detail of a particular new product they had developed recently. The research viewed the new product development activity from the view point of surface coating processes. These processes are often a source of disappointment to manufacturers, particularly in terms of over budget costs, and this is nearly always avoidable if the right decisions are made during the early stages of product design.

The research found that the mechanical engineers who were making most of the design decisions were generally ill equipped to make surface finish decisions and many of them had no formal training in design. The research also found a fairly common perception among mechanical engineers engaged in design that industrial design was about `tarting up’ the appearance of a product after the function had been determined and that marketing was best kept at arms length during the design and development phases.

Newmark is a supplier of decorative surface finishes and Holdstock says he undertook the research to find out why it is so difficult to gain entry to new product development early on which could save customers money when it came to the surface finishing.