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Design For Culture

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Design for the Environment

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.452.1 - 12.452.9



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Paper Authors


Ahmad Smaili Flashcut CNC

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Ahmad Smaili is the Chairperson of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering Department at the Hariri canadian University in Lebanon. His teaching and research interests include mechatronics, vibration control, and design of mechanisms. He is the co-author of the Applied Mechatronics textbook, Oxford University Press.

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Kazem Kazerounian University of Connecticut

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Kazem kazerounian is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His teaching and reserach interests include robotics, mechanical design, and biomimicry. He had served as the Associate Dean of the College of Enginnering at the University of Connecticut and as the editor of the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design.

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Kinda Khalaf American University of Beirut

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Dr. Kinda Khalaf is an Assisstant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the American University of Beirut. Her research and teaching interests are in the fields of mechatronics and biomechanics.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Design for Culture


How can cultural factors be put on the agenda of design engineers? Does “design” transcend the universally applicable laws of physics? Much of what engineers do is solve problems and make decisions. In fact the engineering profession is constantly making a series of decisions. The process of decision making is far more complex than the process of problem solving. Complicating factors such as culture, ethnicity, globalization, and ethics should play a prominent role. Design, the cross-fertilization of science and art, is a basic function of all species that occupy a masterfully orchestrated and designed ecosystem in which man is but one. On the other hand, culture with its complex mix is the expression of what a group of people creates - arts, beliefs customs, institutions, products and thought - at a particular time within the context of the natural environment. Design and culture therefore are intimately linked and undoubtedly influence each other. This suggests that designers, with their creative problem solving skills and keen interest to preserve nature and advance quality of life are capable of influencing culture in a positive way. This paper highlights some aspects of the design-culture interface and asserts that designers can help fashion a peaceful world. The paper also presents two possible ways to achieve this underlying objective: 1) to develop artifacts that reduce the negative impact of certain cultural practices on the society, and 2) to create educational tools that lead to the realization of the absurdities of some cultural inclinations and their eventual abandonment.


The world as we come to know is a great manifestation of design at work. All species, from the tiniest spider weaving elaborate webs essential for its survival to the mighty homo sapiens littering the natural landscape with giant structures to move the world forward, are busy designing new things. Some designs are conceived to fulfill a human need and some are created for a need to come, and yet some designs are mere manifestations of “man’s elemental impulse to experiment”. While the mental factor of design is exclusively human, design encompasses all activities of all living things in the universe and plays a vital role in how man’s culture evolves and transform.

Throughout history, the culture of man has experienced many transformations, from hunting to farming, to the modern world we know. Culture and design had influenced each other along the way, and many examples attest to that fact. Like a swinging pendulum, culture inspires designers to create new thing, which in turn influence the same culture it had inspired. It is therefore wise to think that designers and what they design have a great potential at affecting culture, however negatively and positively. The destruction and suffering inflicted by man-made weapons prompts retaliation and foster a culture of hate that threatens to destroy the essence of what is human, all in the name of preserving certain cultural inclinations; a negative outcome of engineering designs. It is author’s belief that world peace is threatened in many ways by negative cultural inclinations such as corruption, nepotism, personal aggrandizement, bribery, arrogance, selfishness, and so on. It is also the authors’ belief that designers can contribute positively to

Smaili, A., & Kazerounian, K., & Khalaf, K. (2007, June), Design For Culture Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2342

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