How will you change the world? Do you have a great idea that could make life better for many people? Don't be discouraged if your designs don't turn out in the beginning, because there are important lessons you learn along the way.
Timothy Prestero, engineer and founder and CEO of Design that Matters, describes that an initial great idea is the "adorable baby" of design. Everybody loves it! But a great product often goes through an "awkward adolescence" where designers have to learn new things about the people who will build, buy, and use it.
In a presentation entitled "Design for people not awards", Prestero talks about some of the lessons he has learned in his quest to create things that will make the world a better place. He describes the development of two products for infants in the developing world: incubators and jaundice treatment lamps. The first won lots of awards, but it was never manufactured. The second product is the Firefly, a elegantly simple device that is now providing life-saving light therapy to babies.
When engineers are designing products like the Firefly for developing countries, the process of getting from design to finished product is extremely challenging. Many people will have to make decisions about how a product is made, distributed, and used and engineers must consider them all -- even how easy the product will be to manufacture. They must think about how a product will be packaged and shipped, and they must keep the final appearance and the emotional response of the users in mind.
Engineers also must consider that people will try to use a product in ways in which it was not intended work. Prestoro describes how overcrowding in hospitals and concerned mothers were unintentionally thwarting jaundice treatments. The Firefly was designed to make it clear how it was to be used and built in some safeguards to ensure that babies would get the therapy they needed.
The specialized training that engineers receive, and the experience they gain by working in the field allows them to take ideas and turn them into reality. Timothy Presteo's presentation is a wonderful example of how engineers with a passion to make the world a better place go about making it happen.