National Committee on Engineering Design

Design is fundamental to best-practice engineering.

What is Engineering Design?

Engineering is the application of science to problem solving. Design is the creative expression of knowledge.

Each word is important. A design cannot just be a thought, it must be expressed in some material form (a sketch, article, music or in text ). To be 'design' or a 'design' the expression must be creative. For example it cannot just be somebody musing over say whether the sky is blue or grey. If the creative expression is one of 'emotion' then we can say it is 'art'. If it is an expression of knowledge then it is 'design'.

Most creative expressions are a combination of both 'art' and 'design'. A sculptor will use his knowledge of clay and casting to 'design' his sculpture so that his or her intended emotion can be conveyed to the viewer as 'art'. Similarly, a manufactured article (a product) will be mainly a manifestation of knowledge (design) but still with an emotional input to the form, appearance, packaging and marketing (art).

The subject of 'Engineering' can be divided into two activities of analysis and synthesis. Analysis (research) is really Science or the study of materials, actions and life to better understand our world. We can call it 'Engineering Science' if the study focuses on materials, processes and material actions.

However, when we start taking this knowledge and applying it to improve the quality of life, we are synthesising knowledge. We are now being creative with our knowledge. This is DESIGN and is FUNDAMENTAL to ENGINEERING.


Research and analysis is Science. Both Engineering and Science are important; but knowledge alone is of no consequence to the future of life if it does not manifest itself into material significance through DESIGN.

About the National Committee on Engineering Design

The National Committee on Engineering Design (NCED) aims to promote design excellence and awareness through media, publications, conferences and both national and international exhibitions.

Engineering Design addresses issues of creating and delivering innovative, useful, reliable and economical technical solutions to meet human wants or needs.

One of our main objectives is to promote links between industry, and tertiary and secondary learning institutions for the strategic development of design learning and experience in all aspects of design.

The NCED in-depth

The NCED is a committee based within the College of Mechanical engineers of Engineers Australia, which aims to further Engineering design, particularly in the broad ‘mechanical’ area, in Australia.

The National Committee on Engineering Design aims to promote design excellence, focused on the mechanical technological area, and awareness through media of publications, conferences and both national and international exhibitions.

Engineering Design addresses issues of creating and delivering innovative, useful, reliable and economical technical solutions to meet human wants or needs. One of our main objectives is to promote links between industry and tertiary and secondary learning institutions for the strategic development of design learning and experience in all aspects of design.

The Warman Student Design-and-Build Competition is sponsored and jointly funded by Weir Minerals Australia Ltd and Engineers Australia and is organised each year by the NCED.

Now in its 28th year, the competition is an annual event for second-year students in the Mechanical Engineering courses at universities throughout Australia and New Zealand. The competition’s main focus is on educational issues, particularly creativity, and identifying and encouraging the designers of the future.

Raison d’etre

To promote and support the development of professional design engineering in Australia and to promulgate its importance to the economy, our quality of life, and a sustainable future in the global economy.

Mission statement

To develop engineering design so that it is seen as a distinct competency adding to the achievement of sustainable national development. To ensure an adequate supply of professional Design Engineers to meet Australia’s needs for Industry and Defence.

Strategic plan

Critical success factors and key strategies

1. Convince both politicians and industry leaders about the crucial role design has to play in revitalising the industry by:

  • providing for industry representation on the NCED
  • working through the Institution of Engineers
  • running conference presentations and encouraging participation
  • arranging publicity (e.g. Engineers Australia)
  • lobbying politicians.

2. Create a pool of good experienced local designers:

  • sponsor competitions (e.g. the Warman Competition)
  • sponsor excellence awards
  • develop clear and rewarding career paths
  • influence young people in schools
  • involve more women.

3. Improve the quality of education in engineering design:

  • influence the way Universities select staff
  • educate present teaching staff
  • arrange for design lectures to be given
  • develop teacher resource kits
  • engage eminent speakers
  • develop an online presence
  • influence engineering course carricula
  • develop compentency standards.

4. Develop and document best practice:

  • issue project / product design checklists
  • develop an engineering database
  • prepare appropriate guidelines,

Conduit organisations

NCED aims to work with and influence the directions of the following organisations.


NCED is working towards creating a design or creative element that can be nurtured in all school activities, projects and exercises.

University & Tertiary Centres

Support for programs and people who incorporate design and creativity into courses. A strong push to promote a design (synthesis) stream as a counter to the current research (analysis) stream.

Within and throughout the institution

Committees, Societies, Colleges, Executive, Board, City and Country Divisions.

Other Professional Associations

ACEA, APESA, AIM (Aust Institute of Management), DIA, AAEE.

Business & Business Associations

  • Area business associations
  • Community organisations
  • Rotary, Lions, Apex Clubs


Newspapers, radio, television, internet, social media, journals.

Local, State, Federal & Quasi-Government

Political groups at these levels plus defence, power, transport and water authorities.

Possible activities

Recognition of the importance of design in engineering, of engineering designers and participants at all levels, nationally and internationally.

Support of the Australian Design Awards and Engineering Excellence Awards, providing or nominating judges, providing design awards at universities or guidance to companies wishing to sponsor awards.

Design recognition through member accolades or titles (e.g. the Italian or German prefix Ing).

Publications & articles

In the media, government, EA Magazine, Journals and schools etc.


Direct, indirect & orchestrated advertising of all activities, both within EA and external publications, awards, programs, etc.


Of visiting speakers, prizes, renowned designers, student designers and growth industries utilising design as a core activity.

Literature, information identification & dissemination

A direction, cataloging and support service, worldwide and online.


Design and implementation of technologically-based creative competitions such as the Weir Minerals ‘Warman’ Competition, plus online competitions for schools. Support of existing design oriented competitions (e.g. Solar Marathon) and possible future orchestration. Eventually the implementation of international competitions.

Standards liaison

Input, guidance or nominations for any design related standards committee, nationally or internationally.

Body of final approval for design certification authorities:

  • An ambition to become the recognised umbrella for all design certification bodies.
  • Establishment of a national, design engineer register: Who does what in Australia, successes and projects.


Design support. Advocacy for a stronger design streams through higher degrees in addition to a research stream.

  • Syllabus or program, input or consultation access at all levels, schools, universities and business training.
  • Lectures, papers and presentations.Not only at academic forums, but at business luncheons, Rotary and similar meetings, Executive training sessions etc.
  • Visiting speaker curriculum.
  • Identifying overseas high profile or highly competent speakers, organise, sponsor organisation, orchestration.


From local school exhibitions to major equipment or service exhibitions, providing input, identifying resources and recommending structure.

Seminars, workshops & demonstrations

Use of new prototyping techniques, software, influencing technical seminars to incorporate a design element and design issues.

Initiation of a national design archive

  • Record great design achievements, people and effects.
  • Implementation and maintenance of international engineering design association liaisons.
  • Provision or encouragement of Australian participants at the international design level.

Liaison & communication

Between all design related bodies and input provided for all design issues nationally and internationally.

Guidance on intellectual property protection

To individuals, industry and on policy formulation.

Proposed Graduate School

The engineering skills shortage is well documented. Mechanical Engineers perform diverse roles in the industry including the design of new products, systems and machines. The shortage of skills in the design area is particularly acute and is a significant factor in the increasing loss of Australian industry to overseas countries.

The shortage of skilled design engineers is compounded by a reduction in design teaching in engineering departments at most Australian universities, as university funding is increasingly linked to research output, and design is not regarded as a productive area for research.

For some time the NCED has been concerned about the standard and level of design teaching in Australian undergraduate engineering courses. There has been a level of concern registered with NCED by diverse sectors within the engineering community, including oil and gas, medical technology and defence sectors.

The NCED proposes that the solution is to set up an Australian Graduate School of Mechanical Engineering Design and Manufacture through to Systems Engineering. There will be a focus on design and innovation and on design creativity, the required theoretical knowledge, and a series of design projects in a 'hothouse' design environment.

Financial modeling indicates that the school is viable with a realistic level of industry sponsorship (supported by surveys conducted) and student fees.

NCED is convinced of the need to establish a Graduate School of Engineering Design and Manufacture and is seeking partners from industry, Engineers Australia, government, philanthropists and universities that wish to be involved with the proposed graduate school, particularly foundation sponsors.

To register your interest or to obtain further information please contact us via e-mail at

Articles and papers

Related groups

Contact us

For any enquiries regarding the National Committee on Engineering Design please contact:


Engineers Australia
Engineering House
11 National Ct
Barton ACT 2600


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