A critical review of General Design Theory

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This study is a critical review of General Design Theory (GDT), a mathematical theory of design. It reviews the assumptions (axioms) and predictions (theorems) of GDT with respect to design and illustrates them with simple examples. The scope of GDT with respect to design, the guidelines it provides for building computer-aided design (CAD) systems, and the possibility of implementing these guidelines are examined. GDT assumptions are too restrictive to apply directly to design, and several potential avenues for modifying the theory to attempt to broaden its scope are discussed. Nevertheless, these modifications may not lead to proving strong predictions about design. Treating GDT as a model, rather than as an accurate reflection of design, allows treating the guidelines as hypotheses to be tested empirically. The article discusses these guidelines and some experimental implementations that embody some of them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in Engineering Design - Theory, Applications, and Concurrent Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1995


  • CAD
  • Computer-aided design
  • Design theory
  • Mathematical theory
  • Modeling
  • Topology, model of design


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