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EGR 117: Engineering Design I - Design Thinking Home

What is Engineering Design?

Engineering vs Design Thinking

While the engineering design process above is incredibly important, your first priority as someone engaging in design thinking is the user. There are many, many solutions to a given problem, but a solution that is difficult for the user to engage with is ultimately not a great solution - the user could find it impossible to work with or become frustrated and give up. Step 1 to design thinking is empathizing with the user of your solution to make smart choices about how the solution will work for them according to their needs and preferences!

Image from Thinkability,, accessed December 28, 2023. 

Here are a few resources from the UAB Libraries that you can check out for more information about design thinking in engineering:

Human Factors Engineering (HFE)

When engineers are designing solutions to a problem, they typically have a goal and some parameters in mind. It's very important to consider the end user in your design process! Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is the application of human factors knowledge to the design and construction of equipment, products, work systems, management systems and tasks. The objective is to provide equipment and systems that reduce the potential for human error, increase system availability, lower lifecycle costs, improve safety and enhance overall system performance. (

Image from Martin Anderson's "Human Factors Engineering" on,, accessed Aug 29, 2023.

There are two big questions in human-centered or user-centered design:

  1. How can I protect the user from the system?
  2. How can I protect the system from the user?

This can help us avoid designing and manufacturing products that are not useful in the way we intended or even dangerous to the user. This requires us to consider both the physical and cognitive specifications for our design project. Below is a short video describing the origin of human factors engineering.


For an example of specific guidance provided by a government entity, check out the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) webpage on Applying Human Factors and Usability Engineering to Medical Devices.