In the mid 1980s, I was one of an eclectic group of academics who began looking at design as a formal area of research. Some approached it as an effort to understand and codify the process of design, others focused on the theory of design, while yet others were interested in grammars, graphics, and philosophy. At the time, “design” was on the back burner at most universities with mechanical engineering classes focused on the analysis of machine components such as nuts, bolts, gears, bearings, and engines. There was very little research on “design” itself. Rather, those interested in the topic focused their research on components, materials, or formal methods like optimization or kinematics.

These academics, however, were interested in bringing new tools from the artificial intelligence community, new methods from psychology, process focus from industry, and other leading edge concepts to design understanding and practice....

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