Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing

Special Issue: Call For Papers

AIEDAM Special Issue, Fall 2008, Vol.22, No.4 {Was Summer 2008, Vol.22 No.3}

Design Rationale

Edited by: Janet Burge & Rob Bracewell

The process of designing consists of a long series of design decisions, in which design goals and alternative ways of meeting them are considered from various viewpoints, then accepted or rejected. Typical design documentation merely describes the results of the process: a snapshot of the final product, with little insight into how these results were achieved. An alternative approach, which grew out of Rittel's 1970s work on an Issue-Based Information System (IBIS), is to attempt the additional capture of the rationale behind the design: what decisions were required; what alternatives were evaluated; what was the reasoning behind the choice of one alternative over another; and what dependencies exist between earlier and subsequent decisions. Such a design history of the choices made, if it can be easily searched and navigated, can provide much deeper insights into both the design and the decision-making process. The information can be useful in many ways, such as for redesign, reuse, maintenance, learning, documentation, collaboration and project management.

Despite there being widespread acceptance of the potential usefulness of Design Rationale (DR) repositories, they are still not in general use. One obstacle has been the widely held perception that capturing the rationale is expensive, and that designers will be resistant to using a capture tool.

Three years ago, the IBIS-derived Compendium dialog mapping tool was released for free download, and subsequently it was made open source. The tool is steadily growing in polish and sophistication, which has helped to foster a thriving research and user community. This community has largely focused on the use of the tool for collective sense-making, generally by specialist facilitators capturing real or virtual meetings. While the words "Design Rationale" now rarely appear on the Compendium discussion forum, the software's sharp improvements in usability, functionality and desktop integration, raise the thought that it might after all suggest a way for designers to capture their own routine deliberations. Furthermore, it has recently been reported that a major international power and aerospace company has successfully adopted a simple IBIS-based DR capture tool, as a fundamental part of its design process. Use of the tool is reported to have spread from a trial of an early research prototype, largely by personal recommendation among designers who found it useful, without requiring any form of coercion.

In addition to these recent advances in argumentation capture, significant progress has also been made in the capture of DR by the computational interpretation and augmentation of design sketches, and by improved computer support for simple but meaningful diagrammatic representations, in the early stages of design.

This suggests that the time may be ripe to re-examine some of the pessimistic conventional wisdom concerning DR and the viability of DR capture.

The aim of this special issue on Design Rationale is to further this discussion. Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Tools and techniques for eliciting and capturing DR;
  • Representations and models of DR;
  • DR and graphical representations of designs at early stages;
  • Capture and use of DR during various stages of the designing process;
  • Using DR to support design reuse and adaptation;
  • Using DR to support collaborative design;
  • Using DR to assist in problem diagnosis and solution;
  • Using DR to assist in evaluation of design alternatives;
  • Integrating DR capture and use into design methodologies;
  • Studies of DR capture and use and its effect on designs and the design process;
  • DR and ontologies.

All submissions will be anonymously reviewed by at least two expert reviewers, and a selection for publication made on the basis of these reviews.

Information about the format and style required for AIEDAM papers can be found at
However, note that all submissions for special issues go to the Guest Editors, and not to the Editor in Chief.

All submissions should be made via email to the guest editors, preferably in pdf format.

DRAFT Important dates:

    Intent to submit (with Title & Abstract) As soon as possible Submission deadline for full papers: 1 May 2007 *** Reviews due 30 August 2007 Notification and reviews to authors: 30 September 2007 Revised version submission deadline: 15 February 2008 Issue to publishers: 15 April 2008

Guest editors:

Please direct all enquiries and submissions to the guest editors:

Dr. Janet E. Burge
Department of Computer Science and Systems Analysis
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Miami University
501 East High Street
Oxford, Ohio 45056 USA
Email: burgeje @

Dr. Rob Bracewell
The University of Cambridge
Department of Engineering
Trumpington Street
Email: rhb24 @

Return to the AIEDAM Mainpage

Send Journal Inquiries & Comments to:
Copyright © 2008 Cambridge University Press
Fri Jan 18 17:45:56 EST 2008