Design engineer is a general term that covers multiple engineering disciplines including electrical, mechanical, industrial design and civil engineering, architectural engineers in the U.S.
The design engineer is distinguished from the designer/drafter by virtue of the fact that a design engineer takes care of the total system as well as inner workings/engineering of a design. While industrial designers may be responsible for the conceptual aesthetic and ergonomic aspects of a design, the design engineer usually works with a team of engineers and designers to develop the conceptual, preliminary and detail design and the most critical parts. He/she may work with industrial designers and marketing to develop the product concept and specifications, and he/she may direct the design effort from that point. Products are usually designed with input from a number of sources such as marketing, manufacturing, purchasing, tool making and packaging engineering. In addition design engineers deal with much more complex technological and scientific systems (infrastructure, machinery, production systems, propulsion systems, oil, gas, and mining exploration systems, manufacturing processes).
In many engineering areas, a distinction is made between the design engineer and the planning engineer in design. Planning engineers are more concerned with designing on a more systems engineering level, and overlaps onto the operational side are often necessary. Design engineers, in contrast, are more concerned with designing a particular new product or system. Analysis is important for planning engineers, while synthesis is paramount for design engineers.