A Boundary Object for Mapping, Comparing, and Integrating Product Design Methods

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nadège Troussier
Author: Velleu, Jesse; Brei, Diann; Gonzalez, Richard; Luntz, Jonathan
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Michigan
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 0029-0038
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.4
ISSN: 2732-527X


There are innumerable design methods that exist across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from engineering, to marketing, to psychology. However, the organic, multidisciplinary nature of methodological development in design leads to challenges in comparing or combining methods. Disciplinary perspectives can create conceptual 'boundaries' that may not align with the fluidity of the problems that designers may need to address. It is challenging to work between the boundaries of these design methods due to the unclear delimitation of exactly where and how methods may be integrated. Nomenclature is unstandardized and different terminologies may describe similar phenomena. To address this, a boundary object—the Actor-Abstraction matrix—is developed to recontextualize each of these divergent methods onto a common scale so they may be better understood in reference to their peers. A meta-analysis of four established design methods is performed to demonstrate the flexibility of this conceptual device. With this tool, existing design methods may be more easily examined to identify points of compatibility and gaps in their coverage, and could also serve as a powerful platform for the creation of new design methods in the future.

Keywords: Design methodology, Design theory, Embodiment design, Ontologies

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