Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 405–423 | Cite as

Overlay technology space map for analyzing design knowledge base of a technology domain: the case of hybrid electric vehicles

  • Binyang SongEmail author
  • Bowen Yan
  • Giorgio Triulzi
  • Jeffrey Alstott
  • Jianxi Luo
Original Paper


A tangible understanding of the latent design knowledge base of a technology domain, i.e., the set of technologies and related design knowledge used to solve the specific problems of a domain, and how it evolves, can guide engineering design efforts in that domain. However, methods for extracting, analyzing and understanding the structure and evolutionary trajectories of a domain’s accumulated design knowledge base are still underdeveloped. This study introduces a network-based methodology for visualizing and analyzing the structure and expansion trajectories of the design knowledge base of a given technology domain. The methodology is centered on overlaying the total technology space, represented as a network of all known technologies based on patent data, with the specific knowledge positions and estimated expansion paths of a specific domain as a subgraph of the total network. We demonstrate the methodology via a case study of hybrid electric vehicles. The methodology may help designers understand the technology evolution trajectories of their domain and suggest next design opportunities or directions.


Design theory Data-driven design Knowledge management Technology evolution Network analysis and visualization Hybrid electric vehicles 



We are grateful for the support from the Singapore Ministry of Education Tier 2 academic research Grant (#MOE2013-T2-2-167) “Theoretical Foundations of Technology Network Modeling for Innovation” and the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre. An early version of this paper was presented at the International Design Conference 2016. The feedback we received during the conference session greatly helped us refine the research and the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Engineering Product Development PillarSingapore University of Technology and DesignSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.SUTD-MIT International Design CentreSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.School of ManagementUniversidad de los AndesBogotáColombia
  4. 4.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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