Integrated Design: What Knowledge Is of Most Worth in Engineering Design Education?

Richard Devon and Sven Bilen
213 Hammond, Pennsylvania State University, PA 16802, USA

Alison McKay and Alan de Pennington
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Patrick Serrafero
Ecole Centrale de Lyon, 17 Chemin du Petit Bois, F-69130 Lyon-Ecully, France

Javier Sanchez Sierra
Esc. Sup. de Ingenieros de Tecnun, Universidad de Navarra, 20018 San SebastiaÂn, Spain

This paper is based on the premise that the design ideas and methods that cut across most fields of engineering, herein called integrated design, have grown rapidly in the last two or three decades and that integrated design now has the status of cumulative knowledge. This is old news for many, but a rather limited approach to teaching design knowledge is still common in the United States and perhaps elsewhere. In many engineering departments in the United States, students are only required to have a motivational and experiential introductory design course that is followed several years later by an experiential and discipline-specific capstone course [1]. Some limitations of the capstone approach, such as too little and too late, have been noted [2]. In some departments, and for some students, another experiential design course may be taken as an elective. A few non-design courses have an experiential design project added following a design across the curriculum approach. However, design education may often be only 5±10% of the required engineering undergraduate curriculum. We identify several issues. First, experience alone is not enough, and we suggest the need for re-organizing the design curriculum to include more design knowledge. Second, 5±10% of the curriculum may not be enough time devoted to what 30% of the students will be doing upon graduation or adequate to cover what now constitutes design knowledge (unpublished alumni data from Penn State University and the University of Michigan). Third, design research and design education are not well connected, although some new subjects appear to run counter to this pattern. Working from a modified version of the categorization of design research by Finger and Dixon, we attempt to sketch the universe of engineering design scholarship. We then discuss the content of about 15 leading design texts that we have examined as an indication of what design educators may be teaching. Further, we quantitatively review some disparate models of design education in Europe and the United States to help reveal the scope of what is possible. The authors are members of a new international consortium, Prestige, which is designed to prepare students to work in the global economy by developing learning opportunities in global product design such as: web resources; virtual, cross-national, design teams; and global internship experiences in projects and industries ( Activities such as creating web resources in design make the present paper a useful endeavor, as do the new design programs that are emerging at two partner institutions (, http://


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