Abstract

In an effort to ground the art and practice of design, especially engineering design, in a formal science, there is a need to identify the core, fundamental concepts on which such a science should be based. Popular engineering design guides have long emphasized the importance of function as a fundamental concept. In this paper we argue that another concept, that of affordance, a term coined by the perceptual psychologist James J. Gibson to describe how animals perceive objects in their environment, is a more fundamental and in fact more powerful concept than function. Accepting affordance as a fundamental concept in design leads to a novel view of the design process, in which the designer’s task is to find a system that possesses specific desired affordances, but does not possess other, undesired affordances. The concept of affordance also lends a unifying framework to a variety of disparate approaches to design, while suggesting new metrics and methods of decomposition to the design process in general.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.