Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 147–163 | Cite as

Towards an ontology of design: lessons from C–K design theory and Forcing

  • Armand Hatchuel
  • Benoit Weil
  • Pascal Le Masson
Original Paper


In this paper we present new propositions about the ontology of design and a clarification of its position in the general context of rationality and knowledge. We derive such ontology from a comparison between formal design theories developed in two different scientific fields: Engineering and Set theory. We first build on the evolution of design theories in engineering, where the quest for domain independence and “generativity” has led to formal approaches, likewise C–K theory, that are independent of what has to be designed. Then we interpret Forcing, a technique in Set theory developed for the controlled invention of new sets, as a general design theory. Studying similarities and differences between C–K theory and Forcing, we find a series of common notions like “d-ontologies”, “generic expansion”, “object revision”, “preservation of meaning” and “K-reordering”. They form altogether an “ontology of design” which is consistent with unique aspects of design.


Design theory Innovation Ontology Programming theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Armand Hatchuel
    • 1
  • Benoit Weil
    • 1
  • Pascal Le Masson
    • 1
  1. 1.Mines ParisTech Centre de Gestion ScientifiqueParis Cedex 06France

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