This week we were given a presentation by David Richards, a design engineer of Frazer-Nash consultancy for 26 years, and a visiting professor at the Glasgow School of Art. He spoke to us about his experience at the consultancy, using past projects to lay out their approach to the design process.
What struck me about the way Frazer-Nash operates is how closely they stick to the design processes we are taught at university. Where most companies appear to operate in a very bureaucratic manner, with the final design of a new product conceived almost immediately, Frazer-Nash go through the proper design process.
Of course, this is a natural result of being a design consultancy – people come and give you briefs in a very direct way, exactly how our university projects work. As David said in his presentation, they often leave Frazer-Nash to do their work and don’t have any idea of what the solution might look like. I like this a lot and hope to find a career that works like this.
Even though Frazer-Nash follow a proper design process, they are still a real-life company that encounter real-life obstacles that don’t appear in theory. Take David’s metal detector example. The client already had a fully (and poorly) designed metal detector that was very heavy, but the client did not want to change it. They wanted David’s team to design an additional support system to make the detector easier to carry. It seems that they are often thrown into a design process that has already begun and learning how to deal with this is a good skill.
The same thing happened with the towing tank. They were free to design the platform how they wanted, but the tunnel had already been dug, restricting the dimensions of the platform. These are just additional design constraints to consider, that we might not encounter with our more open-ended university briefs.
It’s very interesting to see that Frazer-Nash consultancy have offered their services to clients designing nuclear fusion power plants. I wouldn’t have considered something so big and industrial as this to need to go through a design process, but of course it does! This is something I will be exploring further in my upcoming blog series on the future of nuclear energy.