The engineering design discipline: Is its confounding lexicon hindering its evolution?

Achille Messac, Wei Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In this paper, we invite the engineering design research community to examine the current state of the engineering design lexicon. We expose the nature and the pervasiveness of practices that often hinder intelligible discourse within the engineering design literature. In particular, we show how such commonly used terms as criterion and metric are used sometimes as synonyms and sometimes not, often leading to material miscommunications. In our view, the engineering design discipline has reached a point in its evolution where clarity and conciseness of its lexicon should be a priority. Today's design activity takes place in a truly multidisciplinary environment, which often involves engineers of diverse backgrounds. Written and oral design discourse among design researchers does not rely on a generally accepted and documented lexicon. These situations are symptomatic of a communication infrastructure that is not effectively facilitating the vigorous evolution of the engineering design discipline of recent years. In addition to detailing the outlines of the design lexicon deficiency, we also propose some avenues to a constructive and productive community-wide discussion on this subject. We invite readers to contribute their views by participating in the web discussion at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication10th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
PublisherAmerican Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
ISBN (Electronic)9780791880333
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes
EventASME 1998 Design Engineering Technical Conferences, DETC 1998 - Atlanta, United States
Duration: Sep 13 1998Sep 16 1998

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ASME Design Engineering Technical Conference


ConferenceASME 1998 Design Engineering Technical Conferences, DETC 1998
CountryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Modeling and Simulation

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