Design mechanisms and constraints
This paper describes a model of design, which takes a different perspective in that it emphasises mechanisms and constraints. The model accommodates design-related activities from the enterprise level through to activities of individuals (e.g. decision-making processes), and provides a holistic treatment of existing design methods. It is suggested that the output of a design stage is not so much the input to the next, as the provider of constraints. Consequently, the creative component of design is not concentrated in one task, with the others being technician tasks: instead each of the tasks augments the design in a creative way. A degree of commonality was observed across different domains and stages of design, which leads to the proposal of a generic design activity (GDA), that can be used in diverse design situations. Sub-activities within the GDA were identified as the generation of candidate solutions, solution assessment, solution selection, implementation, and retrieval of design intent. It is suggested that one of the limitations of many design tools, especially artificial intelligence, is the reliance on on complete problem and constraint specification. In real situations, designers have to determine constraints from incomplete and qualitative specifications, using subjective processes. Furthermore, they subsequently have to negotiate with others for the relaxation of constraints, as the design space may be over-constrained. This negotiation involves interaction with others, and adds the organisational behaviour factors to the design process. Decision-making during design needs to be able to accommodate multiple viewpoints, cope with uncertainty of analysis (incompleteness of knowledge), propagate uncertain variables, and accommodate varying degrees of information abstraction. Other areas of design that may benefit for additional research are identified.