Designing Engineers describes the evolution of three disparate projects: an x-ray inspection system for airports, a photoprint machine, and a residential photovoltaic energy system.
The products of engineering design are everywhere, but who or what determines their form and function? Their surfaces are usually cold, seemingly objective, as if they existed outside of history of the technologies that are so much a part of our lives. Written by a practicing engineer, Designing Engineers yields clues to this mystery by probing deeply into the everyday world of engineering. In doing so, it reveals significant discrepancies between our ideal image of design as an instrumental process and the reality of design as a historically situated social process that is full of uncertainty and ambiguity. Designing Engineers describes the evolution of three disparate projects: an x-ray inspection system for airports, a photoprint machine, and a residential photovoltaic energy system. In each case, we are taken through the hallways and into the meeting rooms of the company to watch over the shoulders of engineers as they engage in the manifold individual and collective work that goes into designing a new product. Louis Bucciarelli was a consultant to one project and participated in the design process for the other two. In all three projects he examines both object - the way participants understood how things work - and process - the way they go about designing. What he learns is that engineering design is a social process that involves constant negotiation among many parties, not just engineers but marketing people, research scientists, accountants, and customers as well. One of the strengths of the book is the way Bucciarelli uses the very language of engineering discourse to uncover the many levels at which negotiation takes place. Designing, it turns out, is as much about agreeing on definitions as it is about producing "hard" artifacts.
This is a book that I believe will furnish new and fresh insights to every engineer reader—teacher, student, or designer—and to readers such as ethnologists and others who observe engineering as a social process. It has, I know, given me important insights into subjects I thought I knew quite a lot about. I wish I had had this book when I was teaching undergraduate courses in the engineering sciences.
Eugene S. Ferguson, Professor of History Emeritus at the Univeristy of Delaware and author of Engineering and The Mind's Eye
Bucciarelli's vigorous, humane intelligence sheds new light on theinner dynamics of technological choice. No other writer has such a marvelous ability to make the ideas of projects of working engineers come alive.
Langdon Winner, Author of The Whale and the Reactor