The Journal of Engineering Education has published an article, What does it mean to design?, and it has caught the attention of engineering departments around the country, including our ERE department. Here I summarize the findings of 6 categories of design, as described by design professionals:

1. Evidence based decision making – Design is finding and creating alternatives, then choosing among them through evidence-based decisions that lead to determining the best solution for a specific problem (civil engineering, scientific research).

2. Organized translation – Design is organized translation from an idea to a plan, product, or process that works in a given situation (civil engineering, mechanical engineering, dance composition).

3. Personal synthesis – Design is personal synthesis of aspects of previous experiences, similar tasks, technical knowledge, and/or others’ contributions to achieve a goal (fashion design, instructional design, scientific research, chemical engineering).

4. Intentional progression – Design is dynamic intentional progression toward something that can be developed and built upon in the future within a context larger than the immediate task (civil engineering, architecture, scientific research)

5. Directed creative exploration – Design is directed creative exploration to develop an outcome with value for others, guided and adapted by discoveries made during exploration (biomedical engineering, etc.)

6. Freedom – Design is freedom to create any of an endless number of possible outcomes that have never existed with meaning for others and/or oneself within flexible and fluid boundaries (painting and writing; computer science).

What do you think?