Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Fadel, Georges M

Committee Member

Summers , Joshua D.

Committee Member

Mocko , Gregory M.

Committee Member

Maier , Jonathan R.A.


Function-based approaches are taught by the engineering design community and implemented in practice. The most significant advantage of these approaches is that they can guide the designers to abstract the essential problems from the design requirements, build the function-based models, and consequently provide the direction of the solution. However, due to the lack of a consistent scientific definition on the meaning of the function, these approaches may be contradictory when representing human-centered aspects, features, and non-physical purposes. To address this issue, design researchers have pursued two general directions: (1) broadening the meaning of function and (2) introducing an alternative scientific concept such as 'affordance' or 'wirk' to compensate for the weaknesses of the functional descriptions. Research on affordance is the focus in this thesis. Although the term affordance has been introduced in design methodology, some significant details like representation, categorization, and application into mechanical design still need to be further studied.
Therefore, this thesis starts by analyzing the ambiguity of function in design to support the necessity of involving affordances, and then reviews and compares the usages of affordance in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Artificial Intelligence (AI), design, psychology, and philosophy. The research opportunities are identified from the review and the comparison of the various approaches. One of the opportunities is to qualify the affordance-based design. Therefore, a new categorization of affordances applicable for product design is proposed, including doing and happening Artifact-Artifact Affordances (dAAA and hAAA), doing and happening Artifact-Environment Affordances (dAEA and hAEA), and doing and happening Artifact-User Affordances (dAUA and hAUA).



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