Design Document

Video Lecture

Video, Slides


The design document communicates the complete and detailed design of your project. It is substantially more detailed than the proposal and prepares you for the assembly phase of the semester. A quality design document is the key to a successful project. Use the following format.

  1. Introduction

    • Problem and Solution Overview:

      One to two paragraphs explaining the context of the problem to be solved by your project, including any relevant references to justify the existence and/or importance of the problem (i.e., the need or want for a solution). Justify the novelty of your solution or explain the expected improvements of your solution over previous results.

    • Visual Aid

      A pictorial representation of your project that puts your solution in context. Not necessarily restricted to your design. Include other external systems relevant to your project (e.g. if your solution connects to a phone via Bluetooth, draw a dotted line between your device and the phone). Note that this is not a block diagram and should explain how the solution is used, not a breakdown of inner components.

    • High-level requirements list:

      A list of three to four objective characteristics that this project must exhibit in order to solve the problem. These should be selected such that if any of these requirements were not met, the project would fail to solve the problem. Avoid vague requirements that can be interpreted a number of ways (e.g. "The radio subsystem should work reliably."). Each high-level requirement must be stated in complete sentences and displayed as a bulleted list.

  2. Design

    • Block Diagram:

      A general block diagram of the design of your solution. Each block should be as modular as possible and represent a subsystem of your design. In other words, they can be implemented independently and re-assembled later. The block diagram should be accompanied by a brief (1 paragraph) description of the high level design justifying that the design will satisfy the high-level requirements.

    • Physical Design (if applicable):

      A physical diagram of the project indicating things such as mechanical dimensions or placement of sensors and actuators. The physical diagram should also be accompanied by a brief one paragraph description.


      For each subsystem in your block diagram, you should include a highly detailed and quantitative block description. Each description must include a statement indicating how the block contributes to the overall design dictated by the high-level requirements. Any and all design decisions must be clearly justified. Any interfaces with other blocks must be defined clearly and quantitatively.

      Include any relevant supporting figures and data in order to clearly illustrate and justify the design. Typically a well justified block design will include some or all of the following items: Circuit schematics, simulations, calculations, measurements, flow charts, mechanical diagrams (e.g. CAD drawings, only necessary for mechanical components).

      You must include a Requirements and Verifications table. Please see the R&V page for guidance on writing requirements and verification procedures.

    • Tolerance Analysis: Through discussions with your TA, identify the block or interface critical to the success of your project that poses the most challenging requirement. Analyze it mathematically and show that it can be feasibly implemented and meet its requirements. See the Tolerance Analysis guide for further guidance.
  3. Project Differences

    • Overview

      A detailed description about the key points of the original project's solution. Then, a detailed description about the fundamental differences between the original project and your new solution. List and explain the areas in which your solution improves upon the original design. What are the engineering trade-offs?

    • Analysis

      The purpose of this section is to theoretically prove why your design will be an improvement in some area. This requires thinking deeply about the core problem your team is trying to solve. How can you quantify that problem? How does the original project perform vs your new solution based on that quantification? (e.g. If you are replacing a wire with a bluetooth wireless transmitter/receiver, what is the problem you are solving? You probably aren't trying to extend the distance a signal can travel because the wire would be better for distance. You really are solving the problem of a wire being in the way. But this would potentially be useless if the bluetooth data rate is too slow. So how do you know you can achieve comparable functionality with the bluetooth system? This requires looking into signal strength, interference problems, error rates, bandwidth, etc.) It would make sense to support your analysis with figures, calculations, engineering assumptions, simulations, etc.

  4. Cost and Schedule

    1. Cost Analysis: Include a cost analysis of the project by following the outline below. Include a list of any non-standard parts, lab equipment, shop services, etc., which will be needed with an estimated cost for each.
      • Labor: (For each partner in the project)
        Assume a reasonable salary
        ($/hour) x 2.5 x hours to complete = TOTAL
        Then total labor for all partners. It's a good idea to do some research into what a graduate from ECE at Illinois might typically make.
      • Parts: Include a table listing all parts (description, manufacturer, part #, quantity and cost) and quoted machine shop labor hours that will be needed to complete the project.
      • Sum of costs into a grand total
    2. Schedule:

      Include a time-table showing when each step in the expected sequence of design and construction work will be completed (general, by week), and how the tasks will be shared between the team members. (i.e. Select architecture, Design this, Design that, Buy parts, Assemble this, Assemble that, Prepare mock-up, Integrate prototype, Refine prototype, Test integrated system).

  5. Discussion of Ethics and Safety:

    1. Expand upon the ethical and safety issues raised in your proposal to ensure they are comprehensive. Add any ethical and safety concerns that arose since your proposal.
    2. Document procedures to mitigate the safety concerns of your project. For example, include a lab safety document for batteries, human/animal interfaces, aerial devices, high-power, chemicals, etc. Justify that your design decisions sufficiently protect both users and developers from unsafe conditions caused by your project.
      Projects dealing with flying vehicles, high voltage, or other high risk factors, will be required to produce a Safety Manual and demonstrate compliance with the safety manual at the time of demo.
  6. Citations:

    Any material obtained from websites, books, journal articles, or other sources not originally generated by the project team must be appropriately attributed with properly cited sources in a standardized style such as IEEE, ACM, APA, or MLA.


An example is available available to illustrate the expectations for a high quality Design Document: Sample DD.

Submission and Deadlines

Your design review document should be uploaded to PACE in PDF format by the deadline shown on the course calendar . If you have uploaded a mock DR document to PACE, please make sure that it has been removed before DR.

Interactive Proximity Donor Wall Illumination

Sungmin Jang, Anita Jung, Zheng Liu

Interactive Proximity Donor Wall Illumination

Featured Project

Team Members:

Anita Jung (anitaj2)

Sungmin Jang (sjang27)

Zheng Liu (zliu93)

Link to the idea:


The Donor Wall on the southwest side of first floor in ECEB is to celebrate and appreciate everyone who helped and donated for ECEB.

However, because of poor lighting and color contrast between the copper and the wall behind, donor names are not noticed as much as they should, especially after sunset.

Solution Overview:

Here is the image of the Donor Wall:

We are going to design and implement a dynamic and interactive illuminating system for the Donor Wall by installing LEDs on the background. LEDs can be placed behind the names to softly illuminate each name. LEDs can also fill in the transparent gaps in the “circuit board” to allow for interaction and dynamic animation.

And our project’s system would contain 2 basic modes:

Default mode: When there is nobody near the Donor Wall, the names are softly illuminated from the back of each name block.

Moving mode: When sensors detect any stimulation such as a person walking nearby, the LEDs are controlled to animate “current” or “pulses” flowing through the “circuit board” into name boards.

Depending on the progress of our project, we have some additional modes:

Pressing mode: When someone is physically pressing on a name block, detected by pressure sensors, the LEDs are controlled to

animate scattering of outgoing light, just as if a wave or light is emitted from that name block.

Solution Components:

Sensor Subsystem:

IR sensors (PIR modules or IR LEDs with phototransistor) or ultrasonic sensors to detect presence and proximity of people in front of the Donor Wall.

Pressure sensors to detect if someone is pressing on a block.

Lighting Subsystem:

A lot of LEDs is needed to be installed on the PCBs to be our lighting subsystem. These are hidden as much as possible so that people focus on the names instead of the LEDs.

Controlling Subsystem:

The main part of the system is the controlling unit. We plan to use a microprocessor to process the signal from those sensors and send signal to LEDs. And because the system has different modes, switching between them correctly is also important for the project.

Power Subsystem:

AC (Wall outlet; 120V, 60Hz) to DC (acceptable DC voltage and current applicable for our circuit design) power adapter or possible AC-DC converter circuit

Criterion for success:

Whole system should work correctly in each mode and switch between different modes correctly. The names should be highlighted in a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing way. Our project is acceptable for senior design because it contains both hardware and software parts dealing with signal processing, power, control, and circuit design with sensors.

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