Engineers and designers create new products or new
configurations of old products. This creative process is
usually referred to as the design process.
Design reports document the design process and describe
the completed design.
These reports are usually formal reports, containing
a letter of transmittal, a title page, a table of contents,
and an abstract or executive summary. These materials
make up the front matter of the report.
In the report proper, a design report follows the overall
structure of an empirical research report (at least
superficially); that is, it contains
- an introduction
- a procedures section
- a results section
- a discussion section
- a conclusion, and
However, despite this superficial likeness to the empirical
research report, the design report contains a different
kind of content because its purpose and audience are
usually different. Whereas empirical research reports
tell about a research process and report the findings,
a design report tells how the designers created the design
and then describe the completed design. Furthermore,
design reports often discuss not only the reasons for
certain parts of the design, they also often discuss
the costs involved in building the product and the time
needed to complete it. So a possible guide for the
design report is as follows:
- Front Matter
- Introduction: Who commissioned the design? What
were the financial and time constraints? What is the
the completed product supposed to be able to do? What
are the divisions of this report?
- Procedures: What were the steps in the
design process? Sequence these steps in a chronological
order. Leave out "blind alleys," experiments you
attempted but later discarded, unless there is very good
reason for reporting them.
- Results: Describe the final product. First,
describe it as a whole, and then work your way through
the subparts of the product, describing each. Supplement
this section with visual support, such as a flow chart,
a design sheet, or even a photograph. Extensive technical
data obtained during the design process should be put in
appendices at the end of the report.
- Discussion: If your audience is primarily
other designers, then you will want to discuss the
design process and the rationale for the completed design.
However, most design reports are written to non-designers,
who want to know if the product does what it is
supposed to do, if it does so economically, if it is
feasible to use or build, and so on. They want to
know the significance of your results, so analyze
and interpret them.
- Conclusions: Conclusions are "opinions
arrived at on the basis of evidence." Based on the criteria
for success specified in the introduction, how does this
design measure up?
- Recommendations" Recommendations suggest
action. What do you think should be done? What order
for implementing this action would you recommend?