Effective Design Reviews

Course Length:



Studies have shown that design error is the single biggest cause of failure in aerospace deliverables. While there are many aspects to getting the design right, a rigorous, effective design review process is key. But good design review practice is not just for aerospace engineers. It is essential for every important deliverable or mission. Even the toy industry benefits from effective design review practices. This 2-day course presents valuable techniques, best practices, and tips gleaned from many different organizations and nearly 20 years of design integrity experience with critical deliverables. Case studies and lessons learned from past successes and failures are used to illustrate important points.

Each participant will receive a complete set of course notes that focus on proven techniques, tips, and guidelines for effective design reviews.

This course is avalible for 12+ attendees.

What you will learn:

  • How to set up effective, efficient technical reviews for your project.
  • How to select review boards for maximum effectiveness.
  • How to maximize your contribution as a technical reviewer.
  • How best to perform the chairman’s important roles.
  • How to review purchased items and proprietary or classified designs.
  • The psychological principles that lead to successful design reviews.
  • The (often neglected) art and science of agenda design.
  • Techniques for assuring that Action Items are properly closed and that nothing is lost.

Who should attend:

Anyone who designs critical deliverables (hardware and/or software), those who purchase same, system engineers, program managers, reliability and quality assurance specialists.

Course Outline:

High reliability: Lessons from NASA and the Air Force. The critical importance of good design and why proper design reviews are essential. Design review objectives. Design review “additional benefits” for management. The difference between design reviews and project status reviews. The “seven essentials” for any design review.

Determining what must be reviewed. The dangerous area of “heritage” designs. Establishing a design review hierarchy. Can you overdo a good thing?

Types of design reviews. CoDR, PDR, and CDR. EDRs and lower level reviews. Fabrication feasibility reviews. Test-related and other specialized reviews. “Delta” reviews.

Dealing with purchased items. Subcontractor design reviews. Dealing with proprietary and classified information. Buyoffs of subcontracted items.

The pre-review data package. Why it is so important. Tips for producing it efficiently and making it a more useful document.

The design review “players” and their roles. Role of the sponsor or customer. The program manager’s responsibilities. How to be a more effective presenter. How to be a value-added reviewer. The chairman’s job. Role of the design review “process owner.” Design reviews and the line supervisor.

Design reviewing software, firmware, and FPGAs. Special techniques for software-intensive designs.

Supplements to the design review. Using splinter meetings, poster sessions, and single-topic workshops to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Selecting reviewers and the chairman. Assembling a truly effective review team. Utilizing ad-hoc reviewers effectively. The pro’s and con’s of design reviewer checklists. Pre-review briefings.

The art and science of agenda design. Smart (and not so smart) ways to “design” the agenda. Getting the most out of dry runs.

Documenting the review. What to include, what to leave out. How to improve documentation efficiency. Post-review debriefs.

Action Items. Criteria for accepting/rejecting proposed Action Items. Efficient techniques for documenting, tracking, and closing the most important product of a design review. “Show stoppers” and “liens” against a design.

Design Review Psychology 101. The gentle art of effective critiquing. Combating negativism. Dealing with diverse personalities. Increasing reviewer focus and alertness.

Physical facilities. What would the ideal design review room look like?

What does the future hold? Harnessing the Internet to help the review process. Virtual and video reviews? Automated review of designs?


REGISTRATION:  There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course.   We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING:  If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or ati@aticourses.com. Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time.   To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at ati@aticourses.com.

For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at ati@aticourses.com.


  • Eric Hoffman retired after 40 years of space experience, including 19 years as Chief Engineer of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Space Department, which has designed, built, and launched 64 spacecraft and nearly 200 instruments. He has chaired, served as a reviewer at, presented at, or attended hundreds of design reviews. For this course he has captured the best practices of not only APL, but also NASA/Goddard, JPL, the Air Force, and industry. As “process owner” for design reviews, he authored APL’s written standards. His work on APL’s Engineering Board, Quality Council, and Engineering Design Facility Advisory Board, as well as on several AIAA Technical Committees, broadened his knowledge of good design review practice. He is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Associate Fellow of the AIAA, author of 66 articles on these subjects, and a coauthor of the textbook Fundamentals of Space Systems.

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