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Design Fundamentals

Course Title: Design Fundamentals
Course Number: ENGR-AD 323
Course Category: Engineering Elective
Course Credit: 4.0 points
Course Weeks: 14 weeks
Contact Hours/Week: Day 1, Project Colloquium: 155 min
Day 2, Lecture: 75 min
Day 3, Laboratory: 75 min
Prerequisite: recommended: ENGR-AD 110 J

Course Description

The course »Design Fundamentals« is designed for engineering students to learn the fundamentals of “good design“ – how to be innovative, while keeping the design useful, aesthetic, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, detailed and environmentally friendly, and at the same time focusing on essential aspects. A hands on course about Design in the context of History, Methodology and Function serving the specific needs of engineers in the fields of user-experience, user-interaction and design and innovation in general. The course has four components: a lecture, a case study presentation, a lab and a project colloquium. In the lecture, short crash-courses are presented on specific topics, which are deepened by case study presentations. The lab sessions provide tools to quickly and deeply expose students to new subject matter. During the project colloquium, student groups present their project results and receive feedback in open discussions.


Course Teaching Objectives

The objectives of the course are:

  • To introduce students to the fundamentals of design and engineering specific design topics.
  • To explain the process of design in itself and provide the necessary tools to optimize that process.
  • To increase students awareness of the importance of design and to enable them to apply their new knowledge of engineering-specific design to their future projects.
  • To familiarize students with design history, methodology and function.
  • To give students practical and applicable design tips for their project oriented work.
  • To develop organizational skills by introducing and using instruments for time planning (Gantt Project) and project management (Kanban and Scrum).
  • To provide new skills and techniques (Idea Scribbling, Rapid Prototyping, Paper Prototyping, Physical Computing, 3D-printing, laser-cutting, CNC-milling etc.) and establish their use on a daily basis.
  • To provide visualization methods and improve presentation skills.

Teaching Method

There are three modes of delivery: 1. Lecture, 2. Project and 3. Laboratory.

During the Lecture students are introduced to relevant Design topics in the field of Engineering. In the context of the lectures students will present a case study underlining current topics. The aim of the Project is to develop, throughout several iterations, a presentable prototype of a product that can be produced in a limited series (Bricolage). While the focus in Spring Semester 1 lays on concept development, the focus in Spring Semester 2 lays on the design and development of prototypes. During the development of a prototype the students face different project phases. Weekly presentations and ethical discussions of cases provide the groundwork for students to prepare written case analyses and accompanying 5-minute oral presentations. In the Laboratory sessions Project Management tools and tools of Rapid Prototyping are presented; to deepen the knowledge, practical exercises are accomplished together with hands-on techniques during Lab-sessions. This will help the students to process their project relevant tasks and assigned homework. Readings from the textbooks are assigned weekly.

Course Learning Outcomes

The following learning outcomes are anticipated upon completion of this course.
Students will be able to:

  • Appropriate the ability to apply design in a project oriented way and to improve the quality and performance of future projects. [(c.3)]
  • Solve problems using the design process (understanding, observing, defining perspective, inventing, visualizing, prototyping, developing and testing), and to implement knowledge of the following project phases in future projects: research, brainstorming, idea development, concept development, prototyping. [(c.3), (m.1), (m.2)]
  • Utilize modern digital tools to address engineering challenges. [(k.2)]
  • Improve visualization methods and presentation skills. Discuss design topics eye to eye with other creative professionals. [(G1, G2)]


Any 2 missing classes will result in (-) minus point automatically.
Students will be graded as follows.

I. Case Study presentation 10%
II. Project relevant Research 20%
III. Project Idea/Concept Development 20%
IV. Development of Prototypes 20%
V. Presentations (Elevator Pitch, presentation) 15%
VI. Documentation of Project 15%
Total 100%

Text Books

  1. Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design, Bürdek, Bernhard E., Birkhäuser, Basel, 2015; 4th edition. (Also available as e-book: ISBN PDF 978-3-0356-0394; ISBN EPUB 978-3-0356-0405-4); chapter 1, 3–6
  2. The World as Design, Aicher, Otl, Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn, Berlin, 2015; 2nd edition. (Also available as e-book: ISBN EPDF 978-3-433-60584-4; ISBN EPUB 978-3-433-60583-7)

Supplemental Materials:

  1. The Making of Design, From the First Model to the Final Prototype, Terstiege, Gerrit, Birkhäuser, Basel, 2010 (revised reprint); ISBN: 978-3-0346-0089-7

List of Topics

Spring Semester 1

Week 1. Design as a Concept – Introduction to Design Thinking
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 196 ff.)
Week 2. Design and History I. – Retrospective, The Bauhaus
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 17 ff.)
Book: The World as Design (p. 85 ff.)
Week 3. Design and History I. – Retrospective, The Bauhaus
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 37 ff.)
Week 4. Design and Methodology I. – Semiotics and Design
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 83 ff.)
Book: The World as Design (p. 28 ff.)
Week 5. Design and Methodology II. – Developments in Design Methodology
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 108 ff.)
Week 6. The Function of Design I. – Communication, Formal-Aesthetics
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 148ff.)
Week 7. The Function of Design II. – Marking, Symbolics, Product Semantics
Book: Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design (p. 164 ff.)

Spring Semester 2

Week 8. 20 rules for engineers building a presentation
Week 9. 20 interaction-design hints for engineers
Week 10. 20 product-designs engineers should know
Week 11. 20 graphic-design rules for engineers
Week 12. 20 interface-design rules for engineers
Week 13. 20 designers engineers should know
Week 14. 20 architects engineers should know
design_fundamentals.txt · Last modified: 2023/10/19 09:08 by