Many modern approaches to engineering design seek to optimize design in order to maximize the value of the system to its customers. These approaches rely on the formulation of a system utility function as a measure of system worth. It is shown here that, under certain circumstances, however, such a measure cannot exist. It is then indicated that these circumstances comprise the rule rather than the exception. Finally it is shown that pursuing the objective of design optimization as defined by the customers via contemporary approaches can lead the designer to highly inappropriate and undesirable designs. As a consequence of this, it becomes apparent that the methods of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Quality Function Deployment (QFD) can lead to highly erroneous results.

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