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That which is not form: The practical challenges in using functional concepts in design

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 July 2013

Claudia Eckert*
Design Group, Department of Design, Development, Environment and Materials, Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology, Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Reprint requests to: Claudia Eckert, Design Group, Department of Design, Development, Environment and Materials, Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. E-mail:


Functional modeling is a very significant part of many different well-known design methodologies. This paper investigates the questions of what functional modeling approaches people use in industry and how they conceptualize functions. Using interviews and the findings from an experiment where 20 individual designers were asked to generate a functional model of a product, the paper highlights the different notions designers associate with the word function. Difficulties associated with functional modeling arise from varied and inconsistent notions of functions as well as wider challenges associated with modeling and the introduction of methods in industry.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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