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A solution to a problem in one field is used to provide a new idea for a design problem in another.

aesthetic-usability effect
A condition whereby users perceive more aesthetically pleasing designs to be easier to use than less aesthetically pleasing designs.

A sequence of instructions to describe a set of actions.

A mixture that contains at least one metal. This can be a mixture of metals or a mixture of metals and non-metals.

The transfer of an idea from one context to another.

The aspect of ergonomics that deals with body measurements, particularly those of size, strength and physical capacity.

appearance prototype
An appearance prototype, or appearance model, is a physical representation of an object that literally appears like the production product. However, it does not function and is made from wood, foam, clay or other prototyping materials.


assembly-line production
The mass production of a product via a flow line based on the interchangeability of parts, pre-processing of materials, standardization and work division.

The smallest part of an element that can exist chemically.

attribute listing
Attribute listing identifies the key attributes of a product or process and then enables designers to think of ways to change, modify or improve each attribute.

A volume production process involving machines controlled by computers.


batch production
Limited volume production (a set number of items to be produced).

The research and analysis of the mechanics of living organisms.

A form of group think. A group with a recommended size of 10–12 people first devises wild ideas, all of which are written down. No criticism or evaluation is allowed until this is finished, as it is impossible to be creative and critical at the same time. The ideas are then criticized and evaluated.


A mixture composed of two or more substances (materials) with one substance acting as the matrix or glue.

computer-aided design (CAD)
The use of computers to aid the design process.

computer-aided manufacture (CAM)
The use of computers to aid manufacturing.

computer-integrated manufacture (CIM)
A system of manufacturing that uses computers to integrate the processing of production, business and manufacturing in order to create more efficient production lines.

computer modelling
A computer program that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system.

computer numerical control (CNC)
Refers specifically to the computer control of machines for the purpose of manufacturing complex parts in metals and other materials. Machines are controlled by a program commonly called a “G code”. Each code is assigned to a particular operation or process. The codes control X,Y,Z movements and feed speeds.

constructive discontent
Analysing a situation that would benefit from redesign, and working out a strategy for improving it.

convergent thinking
The ability to analyse information in order to select an answer from alternatives.

corporate strategy
Long-term aims and objectives of a company and ways of achieving them by allocation of resources.

The most efficient way of designing and producing a product from the manufacturer’s point of view.

craft production
A small-scale production process centred on manual skills.


The mass per unit volume of a material.

design for assembly
Designing taking account of assembly at various levels, for example, component to component, components into sub-assemblies and sub-assemblies into complete products.

design for disassembly
Designing a product so that when it becomes obsolete it can easily and economically be taken apart, the components reused or repaired, and the materials recycled.

design for manufacture (DfM)
Designers design specifically for optimum use of existing manufacturing capability.

design for materials
Designing in relation to materials during processing.

design for process
Designing to enable the product to be manufactured using a specific manufacturing process, for example, injection moulding.

diffusion into the marketplace
The wide acceptance (and sale) of a product.

divergent thinking
Using creative ability to produce a wide range of possible solutions to a problem.

Involves a company both in the development of new products and in selling those products to new companies.

dominant design
The design contains those implicit features of a product that are recognized as essential by a majority of manufacturers and purchasers.

The ability of a material to be drawn or extruded into a wire or other extended shape.


electrical resistivity
This is a measure of a material’s ability to conduct electricity. A material with a low resistivity will conduct electricity well.

A 2D physical anthropometric model based on a specific percentile, which is used with drawings of the same scale as the model to consider the relationship between the size of an object and people.

The application of scientific information concerning the relationship of human beings to the design of objects, systems and environments.

expert appraisal
The reliance on the knowledge and skills of an expert in the operation of the product.

exploded isometric drawing
An isometric drawing of an object with more than one component that depicts how the parts of assemblies fit together.


A material made up of a network of natural or artificial fibres formed by knitting, weaving or pressing into felt.

A style or trend.

A class of materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to lengths of thread with a length to thickness ratio of at least 80.

field trial
A test of the performance of some new product under the conditions in which it will be used.

fixed costs
The costs that must be paid out before production starts, for example, machinery. These costs do not change with the level of production.

flow chart
A schematic representation of a process.

freehand drawing
The spontaneous representation of ideas on paper without the use of technical aids.

functional prototype
A functional prototype, or functional appearance model, is a prototype that “looks like” and “works like” a production product. Although they are made from prototype materials, these models simulate actual finishes and colours as well as mechanisms.


green design
Designing in a way that takes account of the environmental impact of the product throughout its life.


The resistance a material offers to penetration or scratching.

human development index
A comparative measure of poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, childbirth and other factors for countries worldwide.


incremental design
Small changes to the design of a product that seem trivial but the cumulative effect of which over a longer period can be very significant.

injection moulding
The direct introduction of molten plastic under pressure into a die, which then cools rapidly, allowing the formed object to be released from the mould.

The business of putting an invention in the marketplace and making it a success.


The process of discovering a principle. A technical advance in a particular field often resulting in a novel product.

isometric drawing
A 3D representation of an object drawn with the horizontal plane at 30° to the vertical plane.


just-in-case (JIC)
A situation where a company keeps a small stock of components (or complete items) or ones that take a long time to make, just in case of a rush order.

just-in-time (JIT)
A situation where a firm does not allocate space to the storage of components or completed items, but instead orders them (or manufactures them) when required. Large storage areas are not needed and items that are not ordered are not made.


life cycle analysis
The assessment of the effect a product has on the environment from the initial concept to disposal.

literature search
The use of consumer reports and newspaper items to follow historical development. Useful sources of information could include CD-Roms, such as encyclopedias and newspapers, or more specific disks, subject-specific magazines and manufacturers’ information.

lone inventor
An individual working outside or inside an organization who is committed to the invention of a novel product and often becomes isolated because he or she is engrossed with ideas that imply change and are resisted by others.


An anatomical 3D model of the human body.

manufacturing technique
A specific manufacturing term, sometimes relating to one material group only.

market development
Finding new applications for existing products, thereby opening up new markets.

market penetration
Increasing sales to existing customers or finding new customers for an existing product.

market pull
The initial impetus for the development of a new product is generated by a demand from the market.

market sector
A broad way of categorizing the kinds of market the company is aiming for.

market segmentation
Markets divide up into smaller segments where the purchasers have similar characteristics and tastes.

mass customization
A sophisticated CIM system that manufactures products to individual customer orders. The benefits of economy of scale are gained whether the order is for a single item or for thousands.

mass production
The production of large amounts of standardized products on production lines, permitting very high rates of production per worker.

mathematical model
A model using mathematical symbols that can be manipulated numerically.

A volume production process involving machines controlled by humans.

Two or more atoms that are normally bonded together covalently.

morphological synthesis
Morphological synthesis is an elaboration of attribute listing. After completing the list of attributes, list them along two sides of a 2D grid. Think creatively about how the attributes can be developed through new ideas in each of the cells to improve the design.


non-renewable resources
A natural resource that cannot be re-made or re-grown as it does not naturally re-form at a rate that


one-off production
An individual (often craft-produced) article or a prototype for larger-scale production.

orthographic drawing
A series of flat views of an object showing it exactly as it is in shape and size.


paper prototyping
Representative users perform realistic tasks by interacting with a paper version of the user–product interface that is manipulated by a person acting as a computer, who does not explain how the interface works.

percentile range
That proportion of a population with a dimension at or less than a given value.

performance test
An evaluation of the actual performance of the task or learning objective using the conditions under which it will be performed and the absolute standard for acceptable performance.

perspective drawing
A 3D drawing that realistically represents an object by utilizing foreshortening and vanishing points (usually imaginary ones).

planned obsolescence
A conscious act either to ensure a continuing market or to ensure that safety factors and new technologies can be incorporated into later versions of the product.

plastic deformation
The permanent deformation of a solid subjected to a stress.

population stereotypes
Responses that are found to be widespread in a user population.

product champion
An influential individual, usually working within an organization, who develops an enthusiasm for a particular idea or invention and “champions” it within that organization.

product development
The creation of new, modified or updated products aimed mainly at a company’s existing customers.

product family
A group of products having common classification criteria. Members normally have many common parts and assemblies.


quality assurance
This covers all activities from design to documentation. It also includes the regulation of quality of raw materials, assemblies, products and components, services related to production, and management and inspection processes.

quality control
Involved in development systems to ensure that products or services are designed and produced to meet or exceed customer requirements and expectations.


radical design
Where a completely new product is devised by going back to the roots of a problem and thinking about a solution in a different way.

Rebuilding a product so that it is in an “as new” condition, and is generally used in the context of car engines and tyres.

Recycling refers to using the materials from obsolete products to create other products.

renewable resources
Resources that are naturally replenished in a short time.

The reconstruction or renewal of any part of an existing structure or device.

Reuse of a product in the same context or in a different context.

robust design
Flexible designs that can be adapted to changing technical and market requirements.


The resistance of an elastic body to deflection by an applied force.


Someone who needs some convincing before embracing technological change.

technology push
Where the impetus for a new design emanates from a technological development.

Someone who immediately welcomes a technological change.

Someone who resists all technological change.

tensile strength
The ability of a material to withstand pulling forces.

thermal conductivity
A measure of how fast heat is conducted through a slab of material with a given temperature difference across the slab.

thermal expansion (expansivity)
A measure of the degree of increase in dimensions when an object is heated. This can be measured by an increase in length, area or volume. The expansivity can be measured as the fractional increase in dimension per kelvin increase in temperature.

The ability of a material to resist the propagation of cracks.


user population
The range of users for a particular product or system.

user research
Obtaining users’ responses.

user trial
The observation of people using a product and collection of comments from people who have used a product.


value for money
The relationship between what something, for example, a product, is worth and the cash amount spent on it.

variable costs
Costs that vary with output, for example, fuel or raw materials.