Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 5–21 | Cite as

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

  • Armand Hatchuel
  • Pascal Le MassonEmail author
  • Yoram Reich
  • Eswaran Subrahmanian
Original Paper


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.


Generativity Design theory Decision theory Knowledge structure Social spaces 



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.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair of Design Theory and Methods for Innovation, MINES ParisTech, PSL Research University, CGS, i3 UMR CNRS 9217ParisFrance
  2. 2.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.School of Mechanical EngineeringTel-Aviv UniversityTel-AvivIsrael

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