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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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The Design Process

According to the ABET description, engineering design is a decision-making process. Designing involves decision-making on different levels, at different stages and about different kinds of issues. Simon (1996 [1969]) considers this decision-making process to be all about the problem of making rational choices between available alternatives. Bucciarelli (1996) characterizes it more as a social process in which negotiations between different stakeholders also play a role, thus stressing that more is involved in engineering design than mere instrumental rationality.

From the point of view of the object to be designed, the engineering design process can be described as a process through which a functional description of the object is “translated” into a structural description. A purely functional description of an object “black-boxes” its internal structure; it is oriented toward the environment of the object and describes it in terms of desired input–output relations. Three different kinds of input–output relations are often distinguished, which correspond to the conversion of matter, energy and information. A structural description specifies all the physical/chemical properties of the technical artifact (as in the blueprint for production) and how it will behave under various input conditions. The structural description, however, does not specify which one of all possible input–output relations is the one that corresponds to the desired function: in this sense, ...

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