Good design practice project

There is strong academic and anecdotal evidence that firms which invest in product and industrial design have been commercially more successful than those who do not. To produce a coherent design, there has to be an integration of the different design disciplines which includes marketing, product planning, industrial design and engineering input.

In many small companies however, this can be difficult, as there is often perceived to be a cultural gap between engineers and industrial designers, or between Engineering and Marketing functions. Additionally, small engineering firms may not even include an industrial designer or marketing specialist. This marginalisation of design expertise - or 'silent design' was the primary focus of this project. In such organisations, it is important to have a robust process for product design and development to ensure that important issues are not overlooked.

To address this issue, a joint project was conducted between the Institute for Manufacturing and the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge, and the Department of Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. The project aimed to provide support to companies in developing and improving their product design capability as part of the new product introduction process. Four longitudinal development projects were studied to identify the processes actually employed and to support the integration of design expertise. In addition, a wider number of companies were involved in action research mode to develop a methodology for improving design capabilities.



Royal College of Art: Industrial Design Engineering
University of Cambridge: Engineering Design Centre
Watkiss Automation
Titon Hardware Limited
RJ Herbert Engineering
Audiotel International
Diomed Inc



In addition to academic publications, the primary output was a workbook, containing an audit tool for assessing and improving design capability. In addition, a comprehensive web resource was created, including tools, techniques and information on design and innovation. Content from this resource is included under the 'resources and information heading'. Academic publications include:


  • Moultrie J, Fraser P, Clarkson P J, (2002), The innovation-styling spectrum: factors constraining the design ambition of UK SMEs, International Design Conference Design 2002, Dubrovnik, 14-17 May 2002
  • Moultrie J, Fraser P, Clarkson P J, (2002), The innovation-styling spectrum: a framework for the valuation of industrial design involvement in new product development, 9th International Product Development Management Conference, Sophia Antipolis, France, June 2002
  • Holdway R, Fraser P, Moultrie J, (2002), Designing better business: Assessing and strengthening UK SMEs design capability - principles into practice, DMI 11th international forum on design management research and education, Boston USA, 10-12 June 2002
  • Moultrie J, Fraser P, Holdway R and Clarkson P J (2001), Better By Design: Development of a framework to guide design improvement in SMEs, International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED), 21-23 August 2001, Glasgow
  • Fraser P, Moultrie J, Holdway R, (2001), Exploratory studies of a proposed design maturity model, 8th International Product Development Management Conference, University of Twente, Holland, 11-12 June 2001


This work was supported by the Monument Trust.

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