How is design organized? A preliminary study of spatiotemporal organization in engineering design

C. A. Lauff, D. A. Kotys-Schwartz, M. E. Rentschler, J. Weidler-Lewis, K. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Design is widely considered to be the central or distinguishing activity of engineering and yet it remains an insufficiently researched and understood topic. From the perspective of engineering education, where a 'disconnect' between professional engineering practices and university-based practices is an oft-discussed limitation, the sparseness of research on professional engineering design is noteworthy. Specific representations of real engineering practices are necessary to inform attempts to prepare future engineers. The present study attends to the location of engineering design in different organizational settings, as a way of examining the nature of purported 'disconnects' between professional engineering design practices and those taking place in the undergraduate curriculum. Our core methodology is that of cognitive ethnography, which examines how cognitive tasks, in our case design, are accomplished within 'functional systems' constituted of heterogeneous elements, both human and nonhuman. Our focus is on 'how the work of the organization' gets done through the process of design. This work in progress (WIP) paper explores the spatiotemporal organization of activity as a key aspect of the situatedness and heterogeneity of design work, and reports preliminary findings regarding important differences in how design is organized in different design settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7044477
JournalProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
Issue numberFebruary
StatePublished - Oct 22 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event44th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2014 - Madrid, Spain
Duration: Oct 22 2014Oct 25 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 IEEE.


  • Cognitive ethnography
  • Design process
  • Engineering design
  • Heterogeneous engineering
  • Situated cognition
  • Spatiotemporal organization


Dive into the research topics of 'How is design organized? A preliminary study of spatiotemporal organization in engineering design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this