A design journal is a notebook in which a designer keeps track of ideas, calculations, minutes of meetings, sketches, information, and anything else that pertains to the design work he or she does.
The rules in this page are derived from various engineering sources, as well as some from outside engineering, such as [Ped07].
Hardcopy journals will be graded according to this rubric.
Online journals will be graded according to this rubric.
If this course is offered online, then design journals will be kept online and submitted as PDFs via D2L at the end of the semester.
There is a separate page for online design journals.
Get a simple Hilroy quad-ruled notebook (model 12984) to use as a design journal. They are available at the Ryerson Bookstore.
Design journals are often mandatory in many sectors/industries. There are two principal reasons for keeping a journal:
Refer to Figures 2 and 3 for examples of a real engineering design journal as produced for a large engineering firm. This particular journal dates to 1971. Modern journals are not much different, though they are generally of poorer/cheaper quality to save money.
Most importantly, you can enlarge the Figure 3 to read the notes printed right in the journal. These instructions are very typical of design journals.
The following are mandatory format requirements for an acceptable design journal.
Failure to follow all these requirements will result in a failing grade for your journal.
Keep your design journal with you always — you never know when you will need it.
The kinds of information you need to track in your journal include:
Factual information: background research, product information, part catalog information, to do lists, phone numbers, URLs, and so on.
Activity reporting what you did on the project and when you did it; minutes of meetings (taken during, not after, the meeting); project timelines; how long you spent on design activities; and so on.
Questions, issues, and problems: what needs to be done and why; what don't you know that is preventing you from advancing your design work; what is wrong with the design that needs to be fixed; team members not doing work they promised they would do; and so on.
Decisions: when was something decided? By whom? Was it an “obvious” decision or not? What were the deciding factors? Why did the decision have to be made at that moment?
Reasoning processes: when you think through some problem, don't just stare into space; track your thinking by jotting notes and doodles in your journal.
Design concepts and ideas: whenever you are struck by a concept for a product, doodle it into your journal; warning: you may be struck by the concept in the shower, or while riding the subway.
Critical analysis of things: what is your opinion on an issue, concept, or activity? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Does it make sense or not? Why?
In other words, your journal should contain questions and answers, per the four levels of questions.
Report the things that go wrong.
Do NOT write for the instructor.
Journals must not be novels.
Journals help you when you make a mistake.
In the real world, journals can be legal documents.
A tidy journal is a sign of a tidy mind.
Do NOT worry about length.
We received the first major assignment for the instructional robot project. We roughly split it up into specific segments everyone should work at on their own. We all agreed to work on the particular segment; I took on the responsibility of determining our project strategy while everyone else concentrated on a pair of important product characteristics to complete the PRS. There were some problems with that. We also decided that we would get together some time before the due date to comment on each others work (i.e. adding to PRS or project strategy or changing some values, etc.)
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Here are some actual journal pages from real engineers at Makani Power.
Here are a couple of pages from Dr. Salustri's journal. Notice the coffee stain in the first one.
Below are some sample pages from actual student design journals. These are all examples of good journals. Notice the variety of formats; that's because everyone is different, thinks different, takes notes differently, and is creative in different ways. Do not feel constrained to write your journal for anyone but yourself; whatever format is best for you (with a few constraints described above) is the format that you should use.