Original Paper

Research in Engineering Design

, 19:181

First online:

C-K design theory: an advanced formulation

  • Armand HatchuelAffiliated withMines ParisTech, CGS-Centre de Gestion Scientifique Email author 
  • , Benoit WeilAffiliated withMines ParisTech, CGS-Centre de Gestion Scientifique

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C-K theory is a unified Design theory and was first introduced in 2003 (Hatchuel and Weil 2003). The name “C-K theory” reflects the assumption that Design can be modelled as the interplay between two interdependent spaces with different structures and logics: the space of concepts (C) and the space of knowledge (K). Both pragmatic views of Design and existing Design theories define Design as a dynamic mapping process between required functions and selected structures. However, dynamic mapping is not sufficient to describe the generation of new objects and new knowledge which are distinctive features of Design. We show that C-K theory captures such generation and offers a rigorous definition of Design. This is illustrated with an example: the design of Magnesium-CO2 engines for Mars explorations. Using C-K theory we also discuss Braha and Reich’s topological structures for design modelling (Braha and Reich 2003). We interpret this approach as special assumptions about the stability of objects in space K. Combining C-K theory and Braha and Reich’s models opens new areas for research about knowledge structures in Design theories. These findings confirm the analytical and interpretative power of C-K theory.


Design theory Innovation Creativity