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Getting the basics right is crucial to good design


Cecil Balmond bemoans a lack of emphasis on design in modern engineering degree courses, suggesting it is inhibiting creativity and imagination in engineering graduates - particularly compared with architects (NCE 15 June).

An emphasis on creative design will enthuse students during the three or four years of an engineering course and beyond. However, they will not be well served if this denies them the time to learn the tools they need to develop into the creative, productive, innovative people we will need in the next 50 years.

Yes, we would all like to write music like Mozart, but we should learn our instruments first. Without a knowledge of the basics, the teaching of creative design often reverts to an exercise in mimicking fashion, with computer graphics allowing the most flawed and naîve ideas to appear complete and appealing.

Our future needs people who can dream creative dreams and then be capable of delivering them. Developments in engineering design are an incremental process, rening, reinterpreting and pushing the boundaries. All our creative work stands on the shoulders of visionary giants, which, in turn, is underlain by theory and fact.

If we overemphasise our current view of creative design to today's students, we will be diluting other key skills that they will need when dening their own version of our future.

John Roberts (M), head of structures, Design and Programme Management, Atkins, Woodcote Grove, Ashley Road, Epsom, Surrey, KT18 5BW

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