20.020 | Spring 2009 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Biological Engineering Design


PDP6: Elements of Good Design

PDP1 | PDP2 | PDP3 | PDP4 | PDP5 | PDP6 | PDP7 | PDP8

In this assignment you will address the characteristics of “good design.” For instance, Joel Schindall from the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program offers these elements of good product design:

  • You know it when you see it
  • Minimalist — meets requirements in an efficient manner
  • Wow factor — leaps out at you
  • Robust — failure-resistant
  • “Anticipatory” — easily modified to overcome unanticipated problems (this is subtle but important)
  • Adaptable
  • Expandable
  • Flexible
  • Combines functions to increase efficiency — mounting bracket doubles as heat sink, etc.

By contrast, this interview with Blade Kotelly from Endeca Technologies offers these elements of good software design:

  • Visually Clean
  • Communicates clearly and quickly
  • Anthropomorphic
  • Useful in some way (intended or unintended)
  • Provides clear feedback
  • Keeps users oriented as to their current state
  • Maintains locus of control with user
  • Emotionally compelling
  • Provides simple controls for input
  • Aligns to societal mores

Now it’s your turn. Please make 2 lists. The first list should be 5-10 characteristics of good design in biology as we find it in the natural world. The second list should be 5-10 characteristics of good design in biologically engineered technologies.

Why are we doing this??

As you start to design your own projects, it’s important to think at a high level about “good design” elements. If you can articulate “what makes it great,” then you should be in a powerful position to make wise decisions about project ideas, to accurately evaluate competing ideas and technologies, and to fully appreciate of what exists and what can be improved.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2009
Learning Resource Types
Tutorial Videos
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples