CIRP Encyclopedia of Production Engineering

2014 Edition
| Editors: The International Academy for Production Engineering, Luc Laperrière, Gunther Reinhart

What-If Design

Reference work entry


What-if design is an integrative method that supplies designers with information on the (hidden) effects of their design decisions (Houten and Lutters 2006).

Theory and Application

What-if design aims at proactively supporting the designer in knowledge work that is considered routine work in a specific field. Based on the simple axiom that a design decision leads to a change of the product definition, resulting in one or more (updated) downstream analyses that can be used to assess the consequences of the decision, it is possible to deduce a pattern for a structured way of working. This structure hypothesizes that design decisions can often be rephrased as so-called what-if questions like: “ What is the change in the environmental impact of this part if the material is changed from aluminum to polyurethane?” Fig. 1shows another example. By deriving rules of logic from the routine in previous projects, what-if design is able to take care of the larger part of the basic...
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  1. Houten F, Lutters E (2006) ‘What-if’ design as an integrative method in product design. In: El Maraghy HA, El Maraghy WH (eds) Advances in design. Springer, London, pp 37–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Lutters D, Vaneker THJ, Houten FJAM van (2004) ‘What-if’ design: a synthesis method in the design process. CIRP Ann Manuf Technol 53(1):113–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© CIRP 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Design, Production and ManagementUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands