Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Design theory: a foundation of a new paradigm for design science and engineering


In recent years, the works on design theory (and particularly the works of the design theory SIG of the design society) have contributed to reconstruct the science of design, comparable in its structure, foundations and impact to decision theory, optimization or game theory in their time. These works have reconstructed historical roots and the evolution of design theory, conceptualized the field at a high level of generality and uncovered theoretical foundations, in particular the logic of generativity, the “design-oriented” structures of knowledge, and the logic of design spaces. These results give the academic field of engineering design an ecology of scientific objects and models, which allows for expanding the scope of engineering education and design courses. They have contributed to a paradigm shift in the organization of R&D departments, supporting the development of new methods and processes in innovation departments, and to establishing new models for development projects. Emerging from the field of engineering design, design theory development has now a growing impact in many disciplines and academic communities. The research community may play a significant role in addressing contemporary challenges if it brings the insights and applicability of design theory to open new ways of thinking in the developing and developed world.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

(Source: El Qaoumi et al. 2017)

Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. 1.

    We do not define what design theory as a field of study is in this paper, or what a design theory is. We also do not precisely state what it means for design theory to function as a new paradigm for science. We assume intuitive interpretations of these important concepts and leave the rest for future elaboration, including by other members of the community. We also do not conduct a philosophical analysis of the (im)possibility or over-generality of design theory as we base our paper on significant body of work that demonstrates the possibility and value of design theory.

  2. 2.

    The identity of object is defined through the perception of people organizing the word into categories of cognitive artifacts. Simplistically, it could be done by a set of properties or functions that people commonly associate with the object but it could be more complicated than that (Subrahmanian et al. 2013). For example a “phone” used to be characterized by its function of facilitating voice communication. Today, a “cellular phone” has very different identity than early cellular phones, marking its radical change of identify. Similarly, Uber started with the identity of a sharing economy brand, turning into a disruptive taxi company, and moving fast towards automated mobility in a form antithetical to its original identity.

  3. 3.

    Note that design thinking is today a particular design practice that insists on prototyping and user knowledge. Design theory corresponds to a scientific program that can account for the logic and performance of design thinking in specific cases, see (Le Glatin et al. 2016).

  4. 4.

    Note that as we explain later, generativity is different from the general notion of an ability to generate or create. It has clear definition as well as formal description that could be found in references such as (Hatchuel et al. 2011a, b, 2013b). This definition makes our generativity different from the word 'generative' that is used in generative design grammars or even in different disciplines such as generative grammar in linguistics.

  5. 5.

    This could be the reason why abduction works for diagnosis where one adopts a hypothesis or a set of hypotheses in identifying the cause of the symptoms and is confirmed or refuted by the available and new evidence. For comprehensive treatment of abduction and diagnosis see (Josephson and Josephson 1996).

  6. 6.

    But see recent attempts to define abduction in a way that is more akin to design (Kroll and Koskela 2017). See also the very interesting work on abduction and design theory in Sharif Ullah et al. 2011

  7. 7.

    We contend that models of analogy such as those presented in Goel (2013) that lead to the creation of new objects and their elaboration have generative power. Consequently, different analogical inferences could be evaluated on their generativity, rather than on their capacity to create novelty, value and surprise that are context dependent.

  8. 8.

    Note that there is no value judgement here but the observation that different theories need to be scoped well and could be evaluated based on their generativity. There is no attempt to discount any theory as different theories may be better in particular cases, similarly to other methods (Reich 2010).

  9. 9.

    Knowledge structure here is meant to signify a body of knowledge that heretofore is not integrated. For example, user interaction studies bring new knowledge structures to interactive software design.

  10. 10.

    Biomimicry is a recent area that builds upon at least two distinct disciplines such as engineering and biology and allows the creation of new knowledge structures to bridge them (Goel et al. 2014; Cohen and Reich 2016). It was shown that Design Theory such as C-K theory is a strong support to teaching biomimicry in engineering (Nagel et al. 2016).

  11. 11.

    In this invitation, we are being consistent with our proposed ontology of design, adhering to the principle of reflexive practice (Reich 2017). Developing better design theories can arise from diverse independent knowledge that may come from opening the social space of people involved in the generation of new theories.


  1. Agogué M, Cassotti M (2012) Theory-driven experiments: modeling and testing fixation and stimulation effects on creativity. In: Paper presented at the 5th Paris workshop of the design theory SIG, Paris 30 Jan 2012

  2. Agogué M, Kazakçi A (2014) 10 years of C–K theory: a survey on the academic and industrial impacts of a design theory. In: Chakrabarti A, Blessing L (eds) An anthology of theories and models of design. philosophy, approaches and empirical explorations. Bangalore, pp 219–235.

  3. Agogué M, Le Masson P, Robinson DKR (2012) Orphan Innovation, or when path-creation goes stale: missing entrepreneurs or missing innovation? Technol Anal Strateg Manag 24(6):603–616

  4. Agogué M, Yström A, Le Masson P (2013) Rethinking the Role of Intermediaries as an architect o f collective exploration and creation for knowledge in open innovation. Int J Innov Manag 17(2):24

  5. Agogué M, Kazakçi A, Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Weil B, Poirel N, Cassotti M (2014) The impact of type of examples on originality: explaining fixation and stimulation effects. J Creat Behav 48(1):1–12

  6. Agogué M, Le Masson P, Dalmasso C, Houdé O, Cassotti M (2015a) Resisting classical solutions: the creative mind of industrial designers and engineers. J Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts 9(3):313–318

  7. Agogué M, Levillain K, Hooge S (2015b) Gamification of creativity: exploring the usefulness of serious games for ideation. Creat Innov Manag 24(3):415–429

  8. Agogué M, Lundqvist M, Williams Middleton K (2015c) Mindful deviation through combining causation and effectuation: a design theory-based study of technology entrepreneurship. Creat Innov Manag 24(4):629–644

  9. Agogué M, Berthet E, Fredberg T, Le Masson P, Segrestin B, Stötzel M, Wiener M, Ystrom A (2017) Explicating the role of innovation intermediaries in the “unknown”: a contingency approach. J Strateg Manag 10(1):19–39

  10. Arrighi P-A, Le Masson P, Weil B (2015a) Addressing constraints creatively: how new design software helps solve the dilemma of originality and feasibility. Creat Innov Manag 24(2):247–260

  11. Arrighi P-A, Le Masson P, Weil B (2015b) Managing radical innovation as an innovative design process: generative constraints and cumulative set of rules. Creat Innov Manag 24(3):373–390

  12. Berthet E (2013) Contribution à une théorie de la conception des agro-écosystèmes. Fonds écologique et inconnu communs. MINES ParisTech, AgroParisTech, Paris

  13. Berthet E, Bretagnolle V, Segrestin B (2012) Analyzing the design process of farming practices ensuring little bustard conservation: lessons for collective landscape management. J Sustain Agric 36(3):319–336

  14. Börjesson S, Elmquist M, Hooge S (2014) The challenges of innovation capability building: learning from longitudinal studies of innovation efforts at Renault and Volvo Cars. J Eng Technol Manag 31:120–140

  15. Braha D, Reich Y (2003) Topologial structures for modelling engineering design processes. Res Eng Des 14(4):185–199

  16. Breiner S, Subrahmanian E (2017) A category of design steps. In: 21st International conference on enginering design (ICED17), Vancouver, Canada

  17. Brown T, Martin RL (2015) Design for Action, Harvard Business Review, pp 55–64

  18. Brun J, Le Masson P, Weil B (2015) Analyzing the generative effects of sketches with design theory: sketching to foster knowledge reordering. In: International conference on engineering design, Milan, 2015, p Reviewers’favorite award ICED’15

  19. Cohen P (1963) The independence of the continuum hypothesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci 50:1143–1148

  20. Cohen P (2002) The discovery of Forcing. Rocky Mt J Math 32(4):1071–1100

  21. Cohen YH, Reich Y (2016) Biomimetic design method for innovation and sustainability. Springer, New York, p 254

  22. Colasse S, Nakhla M (2011) Les démarches de contractualisation comme processus de conception : l'émergence du contrôle de gestion médicalisé à l'hôpital. Revue Politiques et Management Public 28:311–331

  23. Defour M, Delaveau C, Dupas A (2010) Avionique. Des technologies innovantes au services des plus belles réussites aéronautiques. Gallimard Loisirs, Paris

  24. Dehornoy P (2010) Théorie axiomatique des ensembles. In: Encyclopeadia Universalis. Encyclopaedi Britannica, Paris, p Corpus

  25. Dias WPS, Subrahmanian E, Monarch IA (2003) Dimensions of order in engineering design organizations. Des Stud 24(4):357–373

  26. Dorst K (2006) Design problems and design paradoxes. Des Issues 22(3):4–17

  27. Dorst K, Vermaas PE (2005) John Gero’s function-behaviour-structure model of designing: a critical analysis. Res Eng Des 16(1–2):17–26

  28. Dym, CL, Agogino AM, Eris O, Frey D, Leifer LJ (2005) Engineering design thinking, teaching, and learning. J Eng Educ 94(1):103–120

  29. El Qaoumi K, Le Masson P, Weil B, Ün A (2017) Testing evolutionary theory of household consumption behavior in the case of novelty - a product characteristics approach. J Evol Econ.

  30. Elmquist M, Le Masson P (2009) The value of a ‘failed’ R&D project: an emerging evaluation framework for building innovative capabilities. R&D Manag 39(2):136–152

  31. Elmquist M, Segrestin B (2009) Sustainable development through innovative design: lessons from the KCP method experimented with an automotive firm. Int J Automot Technol Manag 9(2):229–244

  32. Eris O (2003) Asking generative questions: a fundamental cognitive mechanism in design thinking. In: International conference on engineering design, ICED’03, Stockholm

  33. Eris O (2004) Effective inquiry for innovative engineering design. Kluwer Academic Publisher, Boston

  34. Felk Y, Le Masson P, Weil B, Hatchuel A (2011) Designing patent portfolio for disruptive innovation—a new methodology based on C–K theory. In: international conference on engineering design, ICED’11, Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark, p 12

  35. Flemming U (1987) More than the sum of parts: the grammar of Queen Anne houses. Environ Plan B: Plan Des 14(3):323–350

  36. Freitas Salgueiredo C, Hatchuel A (2016) Beyond analogy: a model of bio-inspiration for creative design. AI EDAM 30(Special Issue 02):159–170

  37. Gedenryd H (1998) How designers work - making sense of authentic cognitive activities. Ph.D. thesis, University of Lund, Sweden. Accessed 1 Sept 2017

  38. Gero JS (1990) Design prototypes: a knowledge representation schema for design. AI Mag 11(4):26–36

  39. Giesa T, Jagadeesan R, Spivak DI, Buehler MJ (2015) Matriarch: a python library for materials architecture. ACS Biomater Sci Eng 1(10):1009–1015

  40. Goel AK (2013) A 30-year case study and 15 principles: implications of an artificial intelligence methodology for functional modeling. Artif Intell Eng Des Anal Manuf 27(03):203–215

  41. Goel AK, McAdams DA, Stone RB (eds) (2014) Biologically inspired design. In: Computational methods and tools. Springer, London

  42. Goria S (2010) Proposition d'une méthode d'expression d'idées et de problèmes d'innovation. J Soc Cult Stud, 5–20

  43. Hatchuel A (2002) Towards design theory and expandable rationality: the unfinished program of Herbert Simon. J Manag Gov 5(3–4):260–273

  44. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P (2006) Growth of the firm by repeated innovation: towards a new microeconomics based on design functions. In: 11th international Schumpeter Society, Nice-Sophia-Antipolis, France, p 18

  45. Hatchuel A, Weil B (2003) A new approach to innovative design: an introduction to C–K theory. In: ICED’03, Aug 2003, Stockholm, Sweden, p 14

  46. Hatchuel A, Weil B (2007) Design as forcing: deepening the foundations of C–K theory. In: International conference on engineering design, Paris, p 12

  47. Hatchuel A, Weil B (2009) C–K design theory: an advanced formulation. Res Eng Des 19(4):181–192

  48. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Weil B (2006) building innovation capabilities. The development of design-oriented organizations. In: Hage J, Meeus M (eds) Innovation, science and industrial change, the handbook of research. Oxford University Press, New-York, pp 294–312

  49. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Weil B (2008) Learning to face the unknown and the emergent: a project-based critical learning perspective. In: European Academy of Management, Ljublana, p 19

  50. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Weil B (2009) Design theory and collective creativity: a theoretical framework to evaluate KCP process. In: International conference on engineering design, ICED’09, 24–27 Aug 2009, Stanford CA

  51. Hatchuel A, Starkey K, Tempest S, Le Masson P (2010) Strategy as innovative design: an emerging perspective. Adv Strateg Manag 27:3–28

  52. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Reich Y, Weil B (2011a) A systematic approach of design theories using generativeness and robustness. In: International conference on engineering design. ICED’11. Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, p 12

  53. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Weil B (2011b) Teaching innovative design reasoning: how C–K theory can help to overcome fixation effect. Artif Intell Eng Des Anal Manuf 25(1):77–92

  54. Hatchuel A, Reich Y, Le Masson P, Weil B, Kazakçi AO (2013a) Beyond models and decisions: situating design through generative functions. In: Paper presented at the international conference on engineering design, ICED’13, Séoul, Korea

  55. Hatchuel A, Weil B, Le Masson P (2013b) Towards an ontology of design: lessons from C–K design theory and forcing. Res Eng Des 24(2):147–163

  56. Hatchuel A, Le Masson P, Weil B, Agogué M, Kazakçi AO, Hooge S (2015) Mulitple forms of applications and impacts of a design theory—ten years of industrial applications of C–K theory. In: Chakrabarti A, Lindemann U (eds) Impact of design research on industrial practice—tools, technology, and training. Springer, Munich, pp 189–209

  57. Hendriks L, Kazakçi AO (2010) A formal account of the dual extension of knowledge and concept in C-K design theory. In: International design conference - Design 2010, Dubrovnik, Croatia

  58. Hidalgo CA, Hausmann R (2009) The building blocks of economic complexity. Proc Natl Acad Sci 106(26):10570–10575

  59. Imholz S, Sachter J (eds) (2014) Psychology’s design science. Common Ground Publishing, Champaign

  60. Jech T (2002) Set theory. Springer monographs in mathematics, 3rd millenium edition, revised and expanded edn. Springer, Berlin

  61. Josephson JR, Josephson SG (eds) (1996) Abductive inference: computation, philosophy, technology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  62. Kazakçi AO (2013) On the imaginative constructivist nature of design: a theoretical approach. Res Eng Des 24(2):127–145

  63. Kazakçi AO, Gillier T, Piat G, Hatchuel A (2014) Brainstorming vs. creative design reasoning: a theory-driven experimental investigation of novelty, feasibility and value of ideas. In: Paper presented at the design computing and cognition’14, London, UK

  64. Kokshagina O (2014) Risk management in double unknown: theory, model and organization for the design of generic technologies. MINES ParisTech, Paris

  65. Kokshagina O, Le Masson P, Weil B, Cogez P (2014) Innovative field exploration and associated patent portfolio design models. In: Paper presented at the IDMME 2014, Toulouse, France

  66. Kroll E, Koskela L (2017) Studying design abduction in the context of novelty, ICED’17, Vancouver, Canada

  67. Kroll E, Le Masson P, Weil B (2014) Steepest-first exploration with learning-based path evaluation: uncovering the design strategy of parameter analysis with C–K theory. Res Eng Des 25:351–373

  68. Lancaster KJ (1966a) Change and innovation in the technology of consumption. Am Econ Rev 56:14–23

  69. Lancaster KJ (1966b) A new approach to consumer theory. J Polit Econ 74(2):132–157

  70. Le Glatin M, Le Masson P, Weil B (2016 ) Measuring the generative power of an organisational routine with design theory: the case of design thinking in a large firm. CIM Community meeting, Potsdam, Germany

  71. Le Masson P, Weil B (2013) Design theories as languages for the unknown: insights from the German roots of systematic design (1840–1960). Res Eng Des 24(2):105–126

  72. Le Masson P, Weil B (2014) Réinventer l’entreprise: la gestion collégiale des inconnus communs non appropriables. In: Segrestin B, Roger B, Vernac S (eds) L’entreprise, point aveugle du savoir. Sciences Humaines, Paris, pp 238–253

  73. Le Masson P, Hatchuel A, Weil B (2010a) Modeling novelty-driven industrial dynamics with design functions: understanding the role of learning from the unknown. In: 13th International Schumpeter Society, Aalborg, Denmark, p 28

  74. Le Masson P, Weil B, Hatchuel A (2010b) Strategic management of innovation and design. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  75. Le Masson P, Hatchuel A, Weil B (2011) The Interplay Between creativity issues and design theories: a new perspective for design management studies? Creat Innov Manag 20(4):217–237

  76. Le Masson P, Aggeri F, Barbier M, Caron P (2012a) The sustainable fibres of generative expectation management: the “building with hemp” case study. In: Barbier M, Elzen B (eds) System innovations, knowledge regimes, and design practices towards transitions for sustainable agriculture. INRA Editions, Paris, pp 226–251

  77. Le Masson P, Weil B, Hatchuel A, Cogez P (2012b) Why aren’t they locked in waiting games? Unlocking rules and the ecology of concepts in the semiconductor industry. Technol Anal Strateg Manag 24(6):617–630

  78. Le Masson P, Dorst K, Subrahmanian E (2013) Design theory: history, state of the arts and advancements. Res Eng Des 24(2):97–103

  79. Le Masson P, Weil B, Kokshagina O (2015) A new perspective for risk management: a study of the design of generic technology with a matroid model in C–K theory. In: Taura T (ed) Principia Designae—pre-design, design, and post-design—social motive for the highly advanced technological society. Springer, Tokyo, pp 199–219

  80. Le Masson P, Hatchuel A, Kokshagina O, Weil B (2016a) Designing techniques for systemic impact - lessons from C-K theory and matroid structures. Res Eng Des 28(3):275–98

  81. Le Masson P, Hatchuel A, Weil B (2016b) Design theory at Bauhaus: teaching “splitting” knowledge. Res Eng Des 27:91–115

  82. Le Masson P, Weil B, Hatchuel A (2017) Design theory—methods and organization for innovation. Springer Nature.

  83. Lenfle S (2012) Exploration, project evaluation and design theory: a rereading of the Manhattan case. Int J Manag Proj Bus 5(3):486–507

  84. Lenfle S, Le Masson P, Weil B (2016) When project management meets design theory: revisiting the Manhattan and Polaris projects to characterize “radical innovation” and its managerial implications. Creat Innov Manag 25(3):378–395

  85. Mabogunje A, Leifer LJ (1997) Noun phrases as surrogates for measuring early phases of the mechanical design process. In: 9th international conference on design theory and methodology, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 14–17 Sept, Sacramento, CA, p 6

  86. March L (1964) Logic of design. In: Cross N (ed) Developments in design methodology. Wiley, Chichester

  87. Margolin V (2010) Doctoral education in design: problems and prospects. Des Issues 26(3):70–78

  88. Meijer S, Reich Y, Subrahmanian E (2015) The future of gaming for complex systems. In: Duke RD, Kriz WC (eds) Back to the future of gaming. Bertelsmann, Bielefeld, pp 154–167

  89. Monarch IA, Konda SL, Levy SN, Reich Y, Subrahmanian E, Ulrich C (1997) Mapping sociotechnical networks in the making. In: Bowker GC, Star SL, Turner W, Gasser L (eds) Social science, technical systems, and cooperative work. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah

  90. Nagai Y, Taura T, Mukai F (2008) Concept blending and dissimilarity. factors for creative design process—a comparison between the linguistic interpretation process and design process. In: Design research society biennial conference, Sheffield, UK, 16–19 July 2008

  91. Nagel JK, Pittman P, Pidaparti R, Rose C, Beverly C (2016) Teaching bioinspired design using C-K theory”. Bioinspired. Bioinspir Biomim Nanobiomater 6(2):77–86

  92. Ondrus J, Pigneur Y (2009) C-K design theory for information systems research. In: 4th International conference on design science research in information systems and technology, New York

  93. Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, New York

  94. Ostrom E (2009) A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science 325(5939):419–422

  95. Pahl G, Beitz W, Feldhusen J, Grote K-H (2007) Engineering design, a systematic approach (trans: Wallace K, Blessing L, Bauert F), 3rd edn. Springer, London

  96. Potier O, Brun J, Le Masson P, Weil B (2015) How innovative design can contribute to chemical and process engineering development? Opening new innovation paths by applying the C–K method. Chem Eng Res Des 103:108–122

  97. Poelmans J, Elzinga P, Viaene S, Dedene G (2009) A Case of using formal concept analysis in combination with emergent self organizing maps for detecting domestic violence. In: Perner P (ed) Advances in data mining. Applications and theoretical aspects. ICDM 2009. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 5633. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  98. Raïffa H (1968) Decision analysis. Addison-Wesley, Reading

  99. Reddy JM, Finger S, Konda S, Subrahmanian E (1997) Designing as building and re-using of artifact theories: understanding and support of design knowledge. In: Proceedings of the workshop on engineering design debate. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland

  100. Reich Y (1995) A critical review of general design theory. Res Eng Des 7(1):1–18

  101. Reich Y (2010) My method is better!, Editorial. Res Eng Des 21(3):137–142

  102. Reich Y (2017) The principle of reflexive practice. Des Sci 3:2017.

  103. Reich Y, Shai O (2012) The interdisciplinary engineering knowledge genome. Res Eng Des 23(3):251–264

  104. Reich Y, Subrahmanian E (2015) Designing PSI: an introduction to the PSI framework. In: Weber C, Husing S, Cantamessa M, Cascini G, Marjanovic D, Venkataraman S (eds) ICED’15, Milan, Italy, pp 137–146

  105. Reich Y, Subrahmanian E (2017) The PSI matrix—a framework and a theory of design, ICED’17, Vancouver, Canada

  106. Reich Y, Konda SL, Monarch IA, Levy SN, Subrahmanian E (1996) Varieties and issues of participation and design. Des Stud 17(2):165–180

  107. Reich Y, Konda S, Subrahmanian E, Cunningham D, Dutoit A, Patrick R, Thomas M, Westerberg WA (1999) Building agility for developing agile design information systems. Res Eng Des 11(2):67–83

  108. Reich Y, Shai O, Subrahmanian E, Hatchuel A, Le Masson P (2008) The interplay between design and mathematics: introduction and bootstrapping effects. In: 9th international conference on engineering systems design and analysis, Haifa, Israel, p 5

  109. Reich Y, Hatchuel A, Shai O, Subrahmanian E (2012) A theoretical analysis of creativity methods in engineering design: casting ASIT within C-K theory. J Eng Des 23(2):137–158

  110. Ricoeur P (1975) La métaphore vive. Points. Le Seuil, Paris

  111. Rittel HWJ (1972) On the planning crisis: systems analysis of the ‘first and second generations’. Bedriftsokonomen 8:390–396

  112. Savage LJ (1972) The foundations of statistics. 2nd edition (1st edition: 1954). Dover, New York

  113. Savanovic P, Zeiler W (2007) ‘Integral design’ workshops: improving building practice and education through methodological approach for multidisciplinary design teams. In: International conference on engineering design, ICED’07, Paris, 28–31 Aug 2007, p 12

  114. Schmid A-F, Hatchuel A (2014) On generic epistemology. Angelaki J Theor Humanit 19(2):131–144

  115. Schön DS (1990) The design process. In: Howard VA (ed) Varieties of thinking. Essays from Harvard’s Philosophy of Education Research Center, Routledge, pp 110–141

  116. Segrestin B, Hatchuel A (2008) The shortcomings of the corporate standard: toward new enterprise frameworks. Int Rev Appl Econ 22(4-Spécial Issue on Regulation and Governance of the Firm):429–445

  117. Segrestin B, Hatchuel A (2011) Beyond agency theory, a post-crisis view of corporate law. Br J Manag 22(3):484–499

  118. SEoP (2017) Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, Peirce on abduction., July29, 2017

  119. Shai O, Reich Y (2004a) Infused design: I theory. Res Eng Des 15(2):93–107

  120. Shai O, Reich Y (2004b) Infused design: II practice. Res Eng Des 15(2):108–121

  121. Shai O, Reich Y, Hatchuel A, Subrahmanian E (2009a) Creativity theories and scientific discovery: a study of c-k theory and infused design. In: International conference on engineering design, ICED’09, 24–27 Aug 2009, Stanford CA

  122. Shai O, Reich Y, Rubin D (2009b) Creative conceptual design: extending the scope by infused design. Comput Aided Des 41(3):117–135

  123. Shai O, Reich Y, Hatchuel A, Subrahmanian E (2013) Creativity and scientific discovery with infused design and its analysis with C–K theory. Res Eng Design 24(2):201–214

  124. Sharif Ullah AMM, Mamunur Rashid M, Tamaki JI (2011) On some unique features of C-K theory of design. CIRP J Manuf Sci Technol 5(1):55–66

  125. Simon HA (1969) The sciences of the artificial. MIT Press, Cambridge

  126. Simon HA (ed) (1979) Models of thought, vol 1. Yale University Press, New Haven

  127. Simon HA (1995) Problem forming, problem finding, and problem solving in design. In: Collen A, Gasparski WW (eds) Design and systems: general application of methodology, vol 3. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, pp 245–257

  128. Stiny G, Gips J (1972) Shape grammars and the generative specification of painting and sculpture. In: Petrocelli OR (ed) The best computer papers of 1971. Auerbach, Philadelphia, pp 125–135

  129. Subrahmanian E, Reich Y, Konda SL, Dutoit A, Cunningham D, Patrick R, Thomas M, Westerberg AW (1997) The n-dim approach to creating design support systems. In: ASME-DETC, Sacramento, California

  130. Subrahmanian E, Monarch IA, Konda S, Granger H, Milliken R, Westerberg A, Group tN-d (2003) Boundary objects and prototypes at the interfaces of engineering design. Comput Support Coop Work 12:185–203

  131. Subrahmanian E, Reich Y, Krishnan S (2013) Context, collaboration and complexity in designing: the pivotal role of cognitive artifacts. In: ICED’03, Aug 2003, Stockholm, Sweden

  132. Suh NP, Kim SH, Bell AC, Wilson DR, Cook NH, Lapidot N (1978) Optimization of manufacturing systems through axiomatics. Ann CIRP 27(1):321–339

  133. Suh NP (1990) Principles of design. Oxford University Press, New York

  134. Taura T, Nagai Y (2013) A systematized theory of creative concept generation in design: first-order and high-order concept generation. Res Eng Des 24(2):185–199

  135. Tomiyama T, Yoshikawa H (1986) Extended general design theory, vol CS-R8604. Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science, Amsterdam

  136. Tversky B (2002) What do sketches say about thinking. In: AAAI spring symposium on sketch understanding. AAAI Press, Menlo Park, pp 148–151

  137. Vermaas PE (2013) On the formal impossibility of analysing subfunctions as parts of functions in design methodology. Res Eng Des 24:19–32

  138. von Foerster H (1991) Ethics and second-order cybernetics. In: Rey Y, Prieur B (eds) Systemes, ethiques: perspectives en thérapie familiale. ESF éditeur, Paris, pp 41–54

  139. Wald A (1950) Statistical decision functions. Wiley, New York

  140. Yoshikawa H (1981) General Design Theory and a CAD System. In: Sata T, Warman E (eds) Man-machine communication in CAD/CAM, Proceedings of the IFIP WG5.2-5.3 working conference 1980 (Tokyo), Amsterdam, North-Holland, pp 35–57

  141. Zeng Y, Cheng GD (1991) On the logic of design. Des Stud 12(3):137–141

  142. Zeng Y, Gu P (1999a) A science-based approach to product design theory: part 1: formulation and formalization of design process. Robot Comput Integr Manuf 15:331–339

  143. Zeng Y, Gu P (1999b) A science-based approach to product design theory: part 2: formulation of design requirements and products. Robot Comput Integr Manuf 15:341–352

  144. Ziv-Av A, Reich Y (2005) SOS–Subjective objective system for generating optimal product concepts. Des Stud 26(5):509–533

Download references


We thank the reviewers of this paper for their useful comments that have helped making the paper better. The design theory SIG acknowledges the support of the design society and the industrial sponsors. We also thank all the participants in the workshops over the last 10 years.

Author information

Correspondence to Pascal Le Masson.

Additional information

Pascal Le Masson and Eswaran Subrahmanian are the two co-chairs of the design theory SIG of the design society. Armand Hatchuel and Yoram Reich are the two founding co-chairs of the design theory SIG of the design society.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., Reich, Y. et al. Design theory: a foundation of a new paradigm for design science and engineering. Res Eng Design 29, 5–21 (2018).

Download citation


  • Generativity
  • Design theory
  • Decision theory
  • Knowledge structure
  • Social spaces