Design as Building and Reusing Artifact Theories: Understanding and Supporting Growth of Design Knowledge

  • Jayachandra M. Reddy
  • Susan Finger
  • Suresh Konda
  • Eswaran Subrahmanian
Conference paper


As artifacts are designed, knowledge is accumulated gradually and — as this knowledge is organized and reused — designs and design processes are continually refined. An understanding of the nature and growth of design knowledge and its reuse is essential for implementing better design systems and effective design practices. To develop such an understanding, we introduce artifact theory as an interdisciplinary theory about an artifact that is essential for designing that artifact. This theory encapsulates various types of synthetic, analytic and process knowledge and reconciles many disciplinary theories in the context of the artifact. We argue that it is necessarily a contextual theory and hence is ephemeral. While highly mature and well understood design domains may have complete artifact theories, in most domains artifact theories evolve during design. That is, designers not only produce a manufacturable description of the artifact, but also produce the corresponding artifact theory. We observe that this involves both adaptation and reuse of elements of existing artifact theories as well as development of new elements. Hence, we propose the view of design as building and reuse of artifact theories as the basis for understanding design and for developing design environments. We describe artifact theory in terms of several disparate views of design and bring them together leading to a unifying view. We discuss the implications of the view for computational design environments and outline our current research efforts in advancing and supporting this view.


Scientific Theory Turing Machine Technical System Knowledge Building Design Environment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jayachandra M. Reddy
    • 1
  • Susan Finger
    • 2
  • Suresh Konda
    • 2
  • Eswaran Subrahmanian
    • 2
  1. 1.Rockwell Science CenterPalo AltoUSA
  2. 2.Engineering Design Research CenterCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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