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Challenges that influence the process of design and making


1 Respect for different Ethnic, Social and Economic groups (ESE groups)

All manufactured items we use have been designed. Designers work to a design brief or specification, but they must take many other factors into consideration. What types of groups should designers consider?

Social groups

  • Share a common social aspect, such as education level, age or gender.
  • Designs should incorporate specific needs and desires.
  • Example: phones designed for young people that enable easy access to social media.

Economic groups

  • Share similar incomes and may be divided by class.
  • Different economic groups have different purchasing power and may be driven by cost, quality or brand
  • Example: kettles ranging from cheap and basic to expensive and sophisticated.

Ethnic groups

  • Share a common cultural background, such as ancestry, homeland, dialect or cultural heritage.
  • Products should be sympathetic to that culture and not offend.
  • Example: Care should be taken when using certain symbols, clothing or labels.

2 Environment, social and economic issues relating to the design and manufacture of products

It is everyone's responsibility to ensure that we live in harmony with our world, within our means. Several bodies and initiatives help encourage sustainability. Here are some examples:

  • The Fairtrade Foundation tackles poverty and injustice across the world.
  • It looks after the interests of farmers and produces in developing countries by ensuring they are paid a fair price for their goods.
  • It also looks at the working conditions and tries to prevent child or enforced labour and discrimination by gender.

Carbon offsetting schemes allow companies or individuals to try to reduce their carbon footprint or become carbon neutral, for example by planting trees, adopting renewable energy resources or encouraging staff to walk or cycle to work.

Product disassembly enables a product to be recycled, or the parts reused.

  • It also means that products can last longer because because they can be repaired or upgraded.
  • When designing products, companies could reducing the number or parts, examining how parts fit together and labelling the parts by materials for easy separation and recycling.

Disposal of waste is governed by laws at international, European, national and local levels to ensure that the collection, transportation, recovery and disposal of waste has the least impact on the environment.

Consideration of 'green designs'

Global warming and rising energy costs have led to designers thinking about environmental factors when designing products without compromising on function, quality and performance of a design.

Promoting green designs

  • Designing for energy efficiency in the use of the product
  • Using more non-toxic recyclable materials or reusable materials and components
  • Using biodegradable materials
  • Using renewable energy sources or more efficient energy resources
  • Reducing waste or using less materials

Recycling and reusing materials and products

  • If waste from the construction, use and disposal of a product cannot be eliminated, products should be designed to be recycled or reused.
  • Recycling means that the materials from the product can be reprocessed and used again in a different product.
  • Reusing could mean that a product is refilled, such as printer cartridges or jam jars, or simple used again, like shopping bags.

Advantages of recycling and reuse

  • Less waste material to go to landfill
  • Reduces the demand for new materials
  • Helps reduce global warming caused by emissions from processing raw materials
  • Can reduced the need for transportation and mining
  • Jobs can be created in the recycling industry
  • Money is saved as the materials are used for a second time.

Disadvantages of recycling and reuse

  • The recycling process can be complex when separating materials
  • Not always cost efficient, as a lot of energy is needed to transport, process and reassemble recyclable materials
  • The recycling process may produce waste and pollutants, creating more environmental problems.
  • Jobs created in recycling industry may be low quality
  • The quality of the recycling material may be inferior.

Human capability

  • For a design to be successful, it has to meet the needs of the user and operate within their capabilities.
  • Any product that stretches the capabilities of the user is likely to be unsafe.
  • For example, if the controls on an electric heater are unclear, there is a risk of accident.
  • Often simple design changes can improve a product and reduce accidents.

Cost of materials

  • This is not just the inital cost of the raw material but also the ongoing costs of maintenance, transportation, recycling and disposal of the material at the end of its life.
  • The environmental cost also needs to be considered, such as the production of raw materials and the costs to recycle, reuse or disposal of the material.
  • This cost could be damage to the landscape, emissions from conversion processes or the amount of energy required in the production process.

Manufacturing capability

  • The easier a product is to construct, the lower the manufacturing costs.
  • Factors include the materials used, the required quality or tolerance, the required finish and whether the product can be manufactured using existing processes.
  • Designers can then design for manufacture (DFM) by:
    • using standardised parts and reducing the amount of specialised parts
    • simplifying or using repeatable processes
    • reducing the complexity of the design or making it modular
    • designing simple quality control tests
    • designing for disassembly for servicing and repair

Environmental impact - life-cycle analysis

  • A life cycle analysis(LCA) is a systematic inventory that assesses environmental impacts relating to every stage of a product's life.

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3 Summary

  • Designers must respect different social, ethnic and economic groups
  • Designers need to consider the environmental costs of the design
  • The capabilities of humans and manufacturing methods need to be understood when designing.

4 Exam questions

  • Explain two ways that human capability would be considered when designing a kitchen radio.
  • Describe four ways that manufacturers could improve their manufacturing capability.
  • Describe four ways that a company could use a 'green design' strategy for manufacturing its products.
  • Explain the term 'life-cycle analysis'.
  • Describe three ways for an individual to offset their carbon footprint.
  • Summarise how a manufacturer will use 'design for manufacture' in the design of a new product.
  • Justify why it is important for councils to run a recycling scheme.