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Howard Birnbaum Memorial Lecture

Event Type
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
100 Materials Science and Engineering Building
Mar 17, 2014   4:00 pm  
Michael Ashby, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge
Originating Calendar
MatSE Seminars

"Why should engineering students care about Industrial Design? And if they don’t, how to enlighten them?" - Most students of Engineering or of Materials Science are attracted by the mechanistic principles and analytical rigor of their subject.  To them the word “Design” means “provision of function in ways that are safe, reliable and affordable”.  The language of Industrial Design describing the sensual and emotional character of materials and products carries, for them, little meaning.  Yet successful products depend as much on the provision of usability and satisfaction as provision of function.  Failure to understand the role and importance of the Industrial Designer is failure to engage fully with the mission of Engineering. Courses in that combine the approaches of Engineering and Industrial Design, informing students about both, exist and are very successful.  But most large engineering programs do not take this approach and already have programs so full that inflating them further with new courses is out of the question.  So the challenge: how to inform students in large Engineering courses, of the meaning, role and importance of Industrial Design in a single lecture and in a language they can grasp? The talk is an attempt to meet this challenge by providing some insight into the ways in which aesthetics, associations and perceived character contribute to the desirability of products.

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