Design theory: a foundation of a new paradigm for design science and engineering

Armand Hatchuel, Pascal Le Masson, Yoram Reich, Eswaran Subrahmanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, the works on design theory (and particularly the works of the design theory SIG of the design society) have contributed to reconstruct the science of design, comparable in its structure, foundations and impact to decision theory, optimization or game theory in their time. These works have reconstructed historical roots and the evolution of design theory, conceptualized the field at a high level of generality and uncovered theoretical foundations, in particular the logic of generativity, the “design-oriented” structures of knowledge, and the logic of design spaces. These results give the academic field of engineering design an ecology of scientific objects and models, which allows for expanding the scope of engineering education and design courses. They have contributed to a paradigm shift in the organization of R&D departments, supporting the development of new methods and processes in innovation departments, and to establishing new models for development projects. Emerging from the field of engineering design, design theory development has now a growing impact in many disciplines and academic communities. The research community may play a significant role in addressing contemporary challenges if it brings the insights and applicability of design theory to open new ways of thinking in the developing and developed world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-21
Number of pages17
JournalResearch in Engineering Design - Theory, Applications, and Concurrent Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Decision theory
  • Design theory
  • Generativity
  • Knowledge structure
  • Social spaces


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