Functional Representation for Design Support: A Design Theory Perspective

Abstract: To cope with the increased competitiveness in mature businesses, and even in immature, companies have to offer customers better and cheaper products with more functionality at shorter intervals, than their competitors. The reduced development time creates a need to utilise resources more efficiently, be more flexible, both when it comes to work-processes and products developed, and to create, cherish and communicate knowledge/experiences in such a way that it supports on-going and future design activities. These new demands on Product Development set esteem the necessity for greater design support that provides an environment of doing design more efficiently and that in the end provides better products. In order to realise a Design Support tool that can take a more active part in the design process, a basic computer-based notation covering a products life-phase must be developed. Designers need to document a finished design but also document its progress, representing and communicating decisions, or non-decisions, made and the rationale behind them, including why requirements was applied and solutions chosen, and the possibilities and dead-ends explored. The vision is a design support tool that lets the involved document their results during the actual process, filtering and communicating relevant information to affected parties and providing more ?intelligent? support. The design information and its relations to a product structure, creates a framework for describing, documenting, balancing and evaluating design concepts. However, the information in the described representation is also a source for future design activities, i.e. inheriting requirements between product families and generations, searching for solutions/lessons-learned and their explanations. This thesis takes a design theory perspective on the described support tool, describing a framework for how design intent and rationale can be linked to a product structure. It shows how Functional Requirements are treated as primary design intent, linking a products purpose (from a socio-technical view) to its realisation (its physical/abstract constitution, hardware/software). It discusses several strategies for a functional representation, both decomposition and structuring and how this affects the possibilities on propagating requirements etc.

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