The impact of modular product design on innovation compared with design from first principles

Design Research Society (DRS)
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Conference Proceedings, Design & Complexity, Design Research Society International Conference, 2010, pp. 1 - 11
Issue Date:
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The research looks at whether modular design methods can compromise innovation when compared with design from first principles. The questions that the authors investigated were: to what extent does modular product design restrict innovation in design? Is design from first principles a better starting point for innovation, and if this is the case, then what methods and environments facilitate design from first principles among design teams? The authors were also interested in the relationship between industry and academia when taking these differing approaches. The authors consider design from first principles to be where there is a significant shift in a product or system which - while addressing similar societal wants, needs and desires - is not built upon nor based on previous technological modules, or on existing design paradigms. These shifts derive from "tabula rasa" design research and lateral thinking, often in combination with new technologies or innovative technological combinations. These innovations are radical as they force creative and/or technological discontinuity. Informed by their projects with industry and academia, the researchers argue that modular-based physical products are generally more appropriate for evolutionary designs or mature products, and that a design from first principles approach is better suited to genuine innovation and step change design. However, in terms of the creative design process, a design from first principles approach can be accommodated in both modular and non-modular products or systems.
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