Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. Cameron Turner, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Julie Linsey

Committee Member

Dr. Gregory Mocko

Committee Member

Dr. Marisa Orr

Committee Member

Dr. Joshua Summers


Overwhelming global statistics on economic, social, and health disparities has driven engineers and designers to develop solutions to minimize these disparities [1,2,11,12,3–10]. For the scope of this study, these efforts are referred to as design for humanitarian engineering and global development (HEGD). HEGD solutions are designed to improve access to medical technologies, energy, clean water, and even spark economic development [1–10]. However, many HEGD solutions go unadopted, halting their intended benefits [9,13,22,23,14–21]. Efforts to improve HEGD adoption have focused on ways to incorporate culture in the design solution’s aesthetics or in approaches post-deployment [24,25,34,35,26–33]. However, a review of failed HEGD efforts with a cultural lens highlights one reason adoption suffers is that the design solutions lack cultural fit, not meeting cultural needs in design form and function [9,13,23,36–38,15–22]. A lack of cultural fit in design solutions suggests there may be a lack of consideration and representation of target user culture in the early design stages, particularly when making design requirements. This work focuses on describing the consideration and representation of target user culture when designers make design requirements.

Using the cultural elements (Social Organization, Economic Systems, Language & Symbols, Customs & Traditions, Arts & Literature, Forms of Government, and Religion [39,40,49,41–48]), a 3-part study was conducted to understand the cultural representation and consideration when making design requirements. Three main factors influence the development of design requirements; the designer, the tool or method used to develop iii requirements, and the design requirements developed. Each part of this 3-part study describes cultural representation in one of the three main influences.

The first study was a comparative analysis that focuses on understanding the frequency that target user culture is represented in engineering design requirements. Cultural frequencies in requirements from HEGD and non-global context projects were calculated and compared to highlight differences in cultural representation. The frequency of culture in HEGD design requirements was lower than for projects with no-global context.

The second study explored the frequency of culture in engineering design methods by highlighting the information the methods explicitly encourage designers to collect. A thematic content analysis was conducted on 10 engineering design methods and themes were developed to represent the types of information methods encourage the designer to collect. Results show that engineering design methods encourage designers to collect cultural information, but methods fall short in relating the cultural information to design requirement development.

The final study investigated cultural representation in the designer’s considerations when making design requirements. Using a quasi-experimental case study, designer considerations and design outcomes were captured, and the effects of the Cultural Elements Requirements Assessment (CERA) on consideration and outcomes were investigated. This study demonstrates that designers consider cultural information and generate cultural requirements. CERA also increased designer considerations for cultural information.



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