Case study research in engineering design, while not as formalized and accepted as in the social sciences, is growing in popularity because of its ability to yield significant insights into how designers interact with design problems, processes, artifacts, and each other. A wealth of evidence for use in case studies exists in the form of undergraduate senior design courses, which produce documentation related to the design of new artifacts every academic semester. The resulting documentation can be effectively mined to test hypotheses about design processes and designer behaviors. In this paper, we offer an example application of how to apply case study research to a completed senior design project in order to test a theory for how designers, users, and artifacts behave as a complex adaptive system. The evidence from the case study supports the descriptive power of the theoretical framework and supports the practical conclusion that effective communication between designers and users is particularly important and should be strengthened to foster overall project success, especially during the problem definition stage of design.

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