Skip to main content Accessibility help

That which is not form: The practical challenges in using functional concepts in design

  • Claudia Eckert (a1)


Functional modeling is a very significant part of many different well-known design methodologies. This paper investigates the questions of what functional modeling approaches people use in industry and how they conceptualize functions. Using interviews and the findings from an experiment where 20 individual designers were asked to generate a functional model of a product, the paper highlights the different notions designers associate with the word function. Difficulties associated with functional modeling arise from varied and inconsistent notions of functions as well as wider challenges associated with modeling and the introduction of methods in industry.


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to: Claudia Eckert, Design Group, Department of Design, Development, Environment and Materials, Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. E-mail:


Hide All
Albers, A., Alink, T., & Deigendesch, T. (2008). Support of design engineering activity—the contact and channel model (C&CM) in the context of problem solving and the role of modeling. Proc. DESIGN 2008, 10th Int. Design Conf., pp. 97102. Dubrovnik, Croatia: Design Society.
Albers, A., Alink, T., Thau, S., & Matthiesen, S. (2008). Support of system analyses and improvement in industrial design through the contact & channel model. Proc. DESIGN 2008, 10th Int. Design Conf., pp. 245252. Dubrovnik, Croatia: Design Society.
Alink, T. (2010). Meaning and notation of function for solving design problems with the C&C-approach. PhD Thesis. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.
Alonso-Rasgado, T., Thompson, G., & Elfström, B.-O. (2004). The design of a functional (total care) product. Journal of Engineering Design 15(6), 515540.
Altshuller, G. (1999). The Innovation Algorithm: TRIZ, Systematic Innovation, and Technical Creativity (Shulyak, L., & Rodman, S., Trans.). Worcester, MA: Technical Innovation Center.
Aurisicchio, M., Bracewell, R., & Armstrong, G. (2013). The functional analysis diagram: intended benefits and coexistence with other functional models. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 27(3), 249257 [this issue].
Bracewell, R.H., Gourtovaia, M., Moss, M., Knott, D.S., Wallace, K.M., & Clarkson, P.J. (2009). DRed 2.0: a method and tool for capture and communication of design knowledge deliberated in the creation of technical products, Proc. 17th Int. Conf. Engineering Design (ICED'09), Vol. 6, pp. 223234. Stanford, CA: Design Society.
Clark, K., & Fujimoto, T. (1991). Product Development Performance. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Crilly, N. (2010). The roles that artefacts play: technical, social and aesthetic functions. Design Studies 31(4), 311344.
Eckert, C., Alink, T., Ruckpaul, A., & Albers, A. (2011). Different notions of function: results from an experiment on the analysis of an existing product. Journal of Engineering Design 22(11–12), 811837.
Eckert, C.M., & Stacey, M.K. (2010). What is a process model? Reflections on the epistemology of design process model. In Modeling and Management of Engineering Processes (Heisig, P., Clarkson, P.J., & Vajna, S., Eds.), pp. 314. New York: Springer–Verlag.
Eckert, C.M., Stacey, M.K., Wyatt, D., & Garthwaite, P. (2012). Change as little as possible: creativity in design by modification. Journal of Engineering Design 23(4), 337360.
Ehrlenspiel, K. (1995). Integrierte Produktentwicklung. Munich: Hanser.
Ericsson, K.A., & Simon, H.A. (1993). Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data (Rev. ed.). Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/MIT Press.
Flanagan, T., Eckert, C.M., & Clarkson, P.J. (2007). Externalising tacit overview knowledge: a model-based approach to supporting design teams. Artificial Intelligence in Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 21, 227242.
Frigg, R. (2003). Re-representing scientific representation. PhD Thesis. London School of Economics, Department of Philosophy Logic and Scientific Method.
Geis, C., Bierhals, R., Schuster, I., Badke-Schaub, P., & Birkhofer, H. (2008). Methods in practice—a study on requirements for development and transfer of design methods. Proc. DESIGN 2008, 10th Int. Design Conf., pp. 369376. Dubrovnik, Croatia: Design Society.
Gero, J.S., & Kannengiesser, U. (2002). The situated function–behavior–structure framework. Proc. Artificial Intelligence in Design '02 (Gero, J.S., Ed.), pp. 89104. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Giere, R. (2004). How models are used to represent reality. Philosophy of Science 71(5), 742752.
Goel, A.K. (2013). A 30-year case study and 15 principles: implications of an artificial intelligence methodology for functional modeling. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 27(3), 203215 [this issue].
Goldschmidt, G., & Porter, W. (2004) Design Representations. London: Springer.
Hauser, J.R., & Clausing, D.P. (1988) The house of quality. Harvard Business Review 66(3), 6373.
Holyoak, K.J., & Thagard, P. (1996) Mental Leaps. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hua, Z., Yang, J., Coulibaly, S., & Zhang, B. (2006). Integration TRIZ with problem-solving tools: a literature review from 1995 to 2006. International Journal of Business Innovation and Research 1(1–2), 111128.
Knott, D.S. (2001). The place of TRIZ in a holistic design methodology. Creativity and Innovation Management 10(2), 126133.
Langford, J.W. (1995). Logistics: Principles and Applications. New York: McGraw–Hill.
Lind, M. (1994). Modeling goals and functions of complex plants. Applied Artificial Intelligence 8, 259283.
Mäki, U. (2011). Models and the locus of their truth. Synthese 180, 4763.
Matthiesen, S. (2011). Seven years of product development in industry—experiences and requirements for supporting engineering design with “Thinking Tools.” Proc. ICED 2011, pp. 236245, Copenhagen, August 15–19.
Mont, O., & Tukker, A. (2006) Product-service system. Journal of Cleaner Production 14, 14511454.
Pahl, G., & Beitz, W. (1977). Konstruktionslehre (1st ed.). Berlin: Springer.
Pahl, G., Beitz, W., Feldhusen, J., & Grote, K.-H (2007). Engineering Design: A Systematic Approach (3rd ed., Wallace, K., & Blessing, L., Trans.). London: Springer.
Stone, R.B., & Wood, K.L. (2000). Development of a functional basis for design. Journal of Mechanical Design 122, 359370.
Suárez, M. (2003). Scientific representation: against similarity and isomorphism. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17, 225244.
Teller, P. (2001). Twilight of the perfect model model. Erkenntnis 55, 393415.
Verein Deutscher Ingenieure. (1993). Systematic approach to the development and design of technical systems and products, VDI 2221. Düsseldorf: Author.
Vermaas, P.E. (2010). Technical functions: towards accepting different engineering meanings with one overall account. Proc. TMCE 2010 Symp., pp. 183194, Ancona, Italy, April 12–16.
Vermaas, P.E. (2013). The coexistence of engineering meanings of function: four responses and their methodological implications. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 27(3), 191202 [this issue].
Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T., & Roos, D. (1990). The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production. New York: Harper Collins.
Wyatt, D. (2011). Developing a computational approach to support product architecture design. PhD Thesis. University of Cambridge.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

That which is not form: The practical challenges in using functional concepts in design

  • Claudia Eckert (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.