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Engineering Design In The Creative Age

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

DEED Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.548.1 - 14.548.11



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Paper Authors

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Robert Fleisig McMaster University

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Harry Mahler Ontario College of Art and Design

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Vladimir Mahalec McMaster University

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

Engineering Design in the Creative Age


McMaster University has initiated a new graduate program in engineering practice aimed at educating tomorrow’s engineering design leaders. Graduates of engineering schools are well versed in technology and its application but must acquire new skills and competencies in innovation and design in order to become global leaders in their industries. The leading thinkers in engineering design innovate continuously to succeed in the global marketplace. This paper discusses the value and importance of teaching and learning human-centered design thinking for engineering graduates. Achieving significant and continuous innovation through design requires looking beyond current systems design practices. Engineering educators must adapt new ways of thinking, teaching, and learning engineering design from other disciplines. This paper discusses the modes of engineering thinking and how they differ from those of contemporary innovators and examines how a human-centered approach to design can replace approaches that consider human values and ethics as constraints to the design. The authors will discuss current efforts to insert the teaching and learning of a human-centered approach to engineering design at the graduate level in an engineering curriculum. The aim of the curriculum is to introduce students to collaborative, inter-disciplinary, human-centered thinking, with a strong emphasis on generating continuous innovation through creativity.


The authors of this work, faculty members of both industrial design and engineering schools, have been collaborating for the past year on the development of a course within the context of a Master’s level graduate program at McMaster University aimed at increasing the creative ability of graduate engineering students studying engineering design. This labor, while both emotionally and intellectually stimulating and invigorating, has also created some clarity regarding some unexpectedly difficult challenges in teaching our students. The experience has strengthened our belief that engineering students can be taught to be creative but that significant barriers exist in the current engineering education. It is our feeling that to overcome the challenges faced in today’s world engineers must learn to be creative and innovative. Our aim in this paper is to elucidate the pressing need for creativity in engineering innovation, the role of design thinking in innovation, and our approach and current learnings in this endeavor.

This graduate program and its courses are situated in Canada and thus this is the context for the remainder of the paper.

Fleisig, R., & Mahler, H., & Mahalec, V. (2009, June), Engineering Design In The Creative Age Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5445

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