Design Engineer

Design engineers produce designs for new or improved engineering products. They work on a very wide range of highly sophisticated products and structures, including aircraft, bridges, medical equipment and agricultural machinery, computers and telecommunications systems.

Design engineers begin each project by looking at a ‘brief’, (a set of instructions) which explains what the aim of the project is. A car manufacturer, for example, may want to increase sales of one of their cars by reducing fuel consumption or improving the look of a new model. Design engineers are responsible for making sure that the product meets the manufacturer’s needs and is safe, efficient, reliable, and is economical to produce. Before they prepare a design, engineers gather information by talking to other experts, reading engineering literature and looking at the results of test data on materials and processes.

Engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) techniques to produce a design on a visual display screen. The computer performs all the necessary calculations relating to the weight of parts and the loads they must bear. The engineer can compare possible solutions by using drawings, calculations, and physical and computer models. Engineers work on models to check and measure the way a product works, which may result in them having to modify their design.

Design engineers work in teams alongside other engineers, technicians and production staff. They may supervise and lead teams of design draughtspeople. They are also responsible for preparing regular progress reports for project managers and clients.

Aspects of their work include:

  • understanding and using physics

  • using mathematics to solve technical and scientific problems

  • learning how different machines work

  • problem-solving by seeking new ideas

  • understanding technical drawings and diagrams

  • understanding the scientific uses and properties of materials

  • planning howa project is to be carried out

  • being interested in 3-dimensional design

  • working with electricity and electronics

  • being responsible for controlling and adjusting equipment

  • keeping accurate records or reports.

Communication skills are an important part of being a design engineer because they have to communicate with the client, especially during product development. A product needs to be continually improved, so the design engineer will already be working on this, receiving specification information from the clients, dealing with various product issues, writing software, debugging the software, testing the software and resolving problems.


  • business and industry

  • financial institutions

  • companies that do product development such as Armscor and the CSIR

Where to Study

Related Occupations