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Affordances and use plans: An analysis of two alternatives to function-based design

  • Auke J.K. Pols (a1)


Function-based design approaches have been criticized for being too narrow to properly guide design. Specifically, they are said to be unable to cope with nonfunctional considerations, such as cost or maintenance issues without invoking other concepts, such as constraints. This paper investigates two alternative conceptualizations of the design process: the practical affordance-based design approach, as elaborated by Maier and Fadel, and the more theoretical use plan approach by Houkes and Vermaas. This paper compares function-, affordance-, and use plan-based design approaches. It highlights strengths and weaknesses of each approach and proposes a definition of the function of an artifact in terms of its affordances.


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Reprint requests to: Auke J.K. Pols, School of Innovation Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology, IPO 1.09, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands. E-mail:


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Affordances and use plans: An analysis of two alternatives to function-based design

  • Auke J.K. Pols (a1)


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