A Formal Method for Subjective Design Evaluation with Multiple Attributes

  • Deborah L. Thurston
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This paper contributes toward a more formal<br />theory and methodology for design by mathematically<br />modeling the functional relationships between design decisions<br />and the ultimate overall worth of a design. The<br />conventional approach to design evaluation is limited in<br />two respects. First, the direct measurement of attribute<br />performance levels does not reflect the subsequent worth<br />to the designer. Second, ad hoc methods for determining<br />the relative importance or priority of attributes do not<br />accurately quantify beneficial attribute tradeoffs. This information<br />is critical to the iterative redesign process. A<br />formal Methodology for the Evaluation of Design Alternatives<br />(MEDA) is presented which resolves these problems<br />and can be used to evaluate design alternatives in<br />the iterative design/redesign process. Multiattribute utility<br />analysis is employed to compare the overall utility or<br />value of alternative designs as a function of the levels of<br />several performance characteristics of a manufactured<br />system. The evaluation function reflects the designer's<br />preferences for sets of multiple attributes. Sensitivity<br />analysis provides a quantitative basis for modifying a design<br />to increase its utility to the decision-maker. Improvements<br />in one or more areas of performance and tradeoffs<br />between attributes which would increase desirability of a<br />design most are identified. A case study of materials selection<br />and design in the automotive industry is presented<br />which illustrates the steps followed in application of the<br />method.




Deborah L. Thurston. (1991). A Formal Method for Subjective Design Evaluation with Multiple Attributes. Research in Engineering Design, 3, 105–122.

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