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Design for engineers

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We encounter designed products daily: appliances, chairs, clothes, buildings, medicines, robots, vehicles and much more – look around you. Design is central to the creation of all these products. Designers and engineers often work closely in teams to translate ideas into useful and required products. Knowledge of the design process is critical for successful engineering – this module combines study with practical work and introduces the essential skills, knowledge and practices of design.

What you will study

The module is presented in three blocks. Each block focuses on a different phase in the development of a designed product.

Block 1 – Exploring designs and designing
The first block provides a general introduction on design. You’ll look at the relationship between people and products and explore the human, cultural and engineering factors that influence the creation of designs. Block 1 will help you develop critical and inquisitive thinking skills when, as an engineer, you observe designs around you.

Block 2 – Design for people
Next, Block 2 focuses on the early stages of the design process and how research and evaluation of user and market requirements inform the process. You’ll learn how to find out about people’s capabilities, preferences and behaviours in order to shape new products. This block will help you develop user research and planning skills.

Block 3 – Creative designing
The final block focuses on the creative strategies that designers use to address design problems – particularly strategies for idea generation in the early design phases. It also teaches some of the core theories of creativity. Block 3 will help you develop your creative thinking skills.

All three blocks will contribute in the development of your ability to think and communicate engineering ideas through drawing and modelling. They will give you the skills that are necessary for the research, planning and development of a design project by looking at various products such as chairs, bikes, music players, kitchen gadgets, and buildings.

The spine of the module is the module website. The core module materials include three printed books (one per block) and a modelling workbook as well as a number of audiovisual material and resources found on the module website. Reading is accompanied by practical activities online and offline. Central to the module is an online virtual design studio, where you will upload images of your practical work for discussion with your tutor and fellow students. You will also be able to view and discuss the design and engineering work of your fellow students.

You will learn

At the end of this module you will be able to:

  • carry out critical observations on the factors that influence the creation of designs around you
  • conceptualise and develop design ideas through drawing and modelling
  • carry out research and apply creative strategies for generating design ideas
  • apply the design process during engineering projects.

The knowledge and skills developed in this module are applicable in various roles played by engineers.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills required for this level, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

Beyond basic literacy skills, nothing more specific is expected other than a curiosity about objects, why they are as they are, and how they might be different and better. It is not assumed that you can already design, or even draw competently. You will be taught all the concepts and skills that you need, but if you already have some skills you will be able to develop them further.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • access to OpenDesignStudio (a platform for sharing your work and exchanging comments with other students)
  • software downloads.

You’ll also receive three printed books, a modelling workbook and a paper pack.

You will need

  • A digital camera or phone camera to take and upload photos of your work.
  • Access to a printer to print out your work and other materials.

Although not essential, you might also find it desirable to have access to the following:

  • A scanner or scanning app to put hand-drawn sketches onto your computer.
  • A video camera.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T218 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Design for engineers (T218) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

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