Abductive Inferences in Strategic Design Decisions

Ehud Kroll, Lauri Koskela

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The overall strategy of designing is addressed. The design decisions that have a major impact on the direction in which the process evolves are termed “strategic”, and here we study them from the perspective of abduction. The aim is to clarify the role of abduction (in the sense of inference to the best explanation) in strategic decision making in design. Four cases are used for demonstration and discussion: functional decomposition in novel situations; the ordering of subfunctions in a function structure; the order of development of design tasks; and managing the design iterations. We focus on two specific design strategies: systematic design and parameter analysis, and show that strategic abductions often take place within the chosen strategy for the sake of efficiency of the process. Such abductions are often triggered by rules (like focusing first on the issue with greatest uncertainty in the total design task) that derive from Peirce's principle for economy of research. It is found that strategic abductions may have a decisive impact on the outcome of a design process. Two potential ways of improving design strategies and related strategic abductions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1064
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Design Society: International Conference on Engineering Design
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019
EventThe 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design: Responsible Design for Our Future - Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 5 Aug 20198 Aug 2019
Conference number: 22


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