Towards a debate on the positioning of engineering design

Chris McMahon, Claudia Eckert, Georges Fadel

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This paper is an invitation to a debate on the positioning of engineering design as a field of research. The paper lists a multiplicity of interpretations of design, questioning whether they are sufficient to describe engineering design in all its variety. Following a critical analysis of attempts to describe design’s unique characteristics, and observations on the nature of design made from outside of the design research community, it presents a list of situations of design that the authors have observed in engineering practice, describing especially the relationship between design, technology and society. The paper then explores what these situations imply about the questions researchers should ask about the nature of design knowledge and expertise, and examines how the different situations might be categorised, before exploring the positioning of engineering design research with respect to other academic disciplines, in particular management and the human and earth sciences. The paper concludes with a call to a debate on the nature of engineering design with the aim to define this field more clearly to ourselves and to others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3169-3178
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Design Society
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event23rd International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2021 - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 16 Aug 202120 Aug 2021


  • Design practice
  • Design theory
  • Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Towards a debate on the positioning of engineering design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this