Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 259–277 | Cite as

Toward a formalization of affordance modeling for engineering design

  • Phillip Cormier
  • Andrew Olewnik
  • Kemper LewisEmail author
Original Paper


When developing an artifact, designers must first capture and represent user needs. These needs can then be transformed into system requirements or objectives. The contribution of this work is rooted in the formalization of the affordance-based approach for capturing user needs in the early stages of design. This formalization comes in three forms: the first affordance basis for engineering design (a defined set of affordances), a formal structure for affordance statements, and a new relational model structure. This formalization is intended to improve model quality and consistency, while managing model creation resources. Further, this affordance-based approach to capturing user needs imposes a level of abstraction that forces solution independence yet is capable of capturing the large range of user needs. As such, the approach provides a structured approach to problem abstraction—the process of specifying user needs without reference to specific solutions. This affordance-based problem representation relies on other design process tools to help develop the actual artifact, which is also discussed.


Affordance Problem abstraction User needs Early design process planning 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Design of Open Engineering Systems LaboratoryUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.NYS Center for Engineering Design and Industrial InnovationUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA

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