In the young field of engineering design theory, various approaches to design differ in their conceptual bases, methods, and scope. These core differences make comparing design theories difficult. One strategy to overcome these differences, long used in the social sciences to test and compare theories, is the case study. In this paper we adopt a published design project, that of a computer monitor stand, and use it as a case study to compare two design theories. The design project was originally conducted using a form of German Systematic Engineering Design (GSED). We contrast those original results with what is obtainable using Affordance Based Design (ABD). Important insights into the differences between these two design theories quickly emerge. Among the differences found are the ways in which: customer needs data is interpreted and handled, product characteristics are represented, customer needs data flows into the ideation and selection processes, and bound and target data are utilized. Perhaps the most important difference shown is at what stage, and how, the product architecture is designed. In GSED, typically the product architecture arises in a bottom-up fashion from a combination of various sub-function solution principles. However, in ABD, the product architecture is the first subject of ideation and selection, as the high-level architecture determines in a top-down fashion most of the lower-level affordances that are designed subsequently. While no two design projects, design teams, or design methods are the same, it is hoped that this particular case study elucidates some of the salient differences between an established and a nascent design theory.

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