Adding Mystery to Rhetoric for Effective Product Development
Richard E. Fry, IDSA | Brigham Young University
Engineering, industrial design and business are three disciplines that work together in the world of product development. Because of power struggles over who is most important, consistent success is often difficult to achieve. Successful product development teams realize that true success and innovation come at the overlapping of the disciplines. Where each of the disciplines make significant contributions and there is a synergy built from individual strengths.
In preparation to participate in such teams, students at many colleges across the country participate in a “Capstone” experience that is meant to introduce them to the interdisciplinary product development process. This is usually a group effort between engineering and/or manufacturing, business and industrial design students.
Despite the success of various individual team projects, a general dissatisfaction exists in the minds of students from all disciplines about what the actual benefit is for their collaborative effort. There are many reasons for this, but one is a general lack of understanding between each of the disciplines about how they relate to one another in a larger picture. Students and faculty alike would benefit from a larger framework of understanding showing the interdependence of the three disciplines necessary for success.
Unfortunately, if a student graduates without a strong, effective collaborative experience, they often carry this same lack of understanding into the professional world.
This paper will suggest how rhetoric provides a simple and communicable unifying framework for bringing the disparate disciplines of engineering, industrial design and business together. The main focus of the paper will be on an introduction to the overarching themes of rhetoric (Kairos, Audience and Decorum), a description of the three classic appeals of rhetoric (Logos, Ethos and Pathos), and a proposed definition of product development using these terms. In addition, it will introduce the idea of Mythos (plot), which is not normally included in classical rhetorical pedagogy, and describe the basic “fables” that each of the three appeals represent. Through historic examples, this paper hopes to show how this rhetorical foundation and a review of a product’s “plot” can help to clarify and focus the contributions of engineering, business and industrial design and uncover potential roadblocks to successful product development efforts.