Concurrent engineering is often viewed either from a technical point of view—that is, as a problem that can be solved by creating and integrating computer-based tools—or from an organizational point of view—that is, as a problem that can be solved by creating and reorganizing teams of designers. In this paper we argue that concurrent engineering requires both technical and organizational solutions, and we call the result concurrent design. We believe that the essence of concurrent design is the myriad of interactions that occur at the interfaces among all of the members of a design team and all their tools. Solving either the technical or organizational problems by assuming away the interactions will not solve the problems of concurrent design.
In this paper we present two case studies of concurrent design in practice that have changed our assumptions about design and which have changed our research agenda. We also present the evolution of concurrent design research at the Carnegie Mellon Engineering Design Research Center. In our research, we have designed, manufactured, and used our own tools as well as observed their use by others—where the tools include mobile computers, design analysis programs, and information organization tools. Through this process, we have learned about design education and design practice, and we have uncovered new issues for design research. We see the interactions among design research, practice, and education as essential to understanding concurrent design.