Leading up to the point when the DRS was "officially" constituted a number of formative events were held where future DRS members disseminated their view of design, primarily focussed on how it was done and how it was taught. These meetings and publications [1,2,3]  can be placed in the wider context of educational reform and technological change marked in the UK by a series of reports and changes to legislation. This context was neatly encapsulated in Harold Wilson's speech at his party conference in Scarborough in 1963 that spoke of the "white heat" of the "scientific revolution" from which a "new Britain" could be forged. The following year Wilson spoke of providing resources to engineers so that they could produce "new processes, new inventions [and] new industries" as he "called into battle" talented designers to produce results that will delight our friends and surprise the world".

After the publication of the Report of the  Feilden Committee on Engineering Design a series of regional conferences on engineering design were organised during 1964 by the Federation of British Industries and the UK Government's Department of Science and Industrial Research. These conferences were followed up by the issue of booklets by the DSIR and Ministry of Technology on the importance of good design in engineering products. [4]

These engineers and designers would need to be educated: the Feilden Report had already made a number of recommendations on how to achieve this. A number of engineers and educators came together in April 1964 at a conference on the teaching of Engineering Design, also held in Scarborough and organised by the Enfield College of Technology, the Institution of Engineering Designers and the Hornsey College of Art. This event represents an important transition point involving a number of participants who would continue to contribute to the development of design research and the Design Research Society.

The 1964 Conference on the Teaching of Engineering Design can be seen primarily as an exercise in sharing teaching methods. Most of the speakers, although not all, were involved in teaching engineering design qualifications at technical colleges and were actively engaged in a resurgence of interest in design. They spoke about how they were developing their courses and how they were running their classes: the appendix lists examples of engineering design courses available at UK institutions.

But there were also engineers from industry. Rolls Royce and Bristol-Siddeley were both represented by speakers who explained what their companies expected from engineering graduates, Ted Happold from Arup was on hand to offer industry expertise if the academies wanted it and Bob Feilden spoke about the need for fresh minds and the need to look at problems in new ways. The conference proceedings generally support a call for further engagement between engineers and a wider appreciation of design aesthetics and what would now be called design thinking. It was, according to Sydney Gregory a good conference but one which highlighted different peoples' assumptions about the nature of design. Some, he reported, saw design in terms of what went on to a drawing board; others took it to be something happening inside a designer's head. A key distinction that continues to exercise design researchers. 

The proceedings of the 1964 conference were edited by Peter Booker and published by the Institution of Engineering Designers. Highlights of some of the papers presented are tweeted here: https://twitter.com/DRS50th.

1. Jones, J. & Thornley, D. (eds) (1963) Conference on design methods, Pergamon
2. Booker, P. (ed) (1964) Conference on the Teaching of Engineering Design, IED
3. Gregory, S. (ed) (1966) The Design Method, Butterworth
4. HC Deb 28 February 1967 vol 742 col.54W


Sampling the DRS50th twitter feed: