The Interplay between Mathematics and Design


A collaborative Inquiry by (in alphabetical order):



Prof. Armand Hatchuel, Ecole de Mines de Paris


Prof. Pascal Le Masson, Ecole de Mines de Paris


Prof. Yoram Reich, Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University


Dr. Offer Shai, Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University


Prof. Eswaran Subrahmanian, ICES, Carnegie Mellon University, NIST


Prof. Benoit Weil, Ecole de Mines de Paris



Mathematics is a fundamental tool in engineering. It is being taught in all engineering disciplines and used on a regular basis to model and analyze diverse phenomena and engineered products. Yet, engineering is much more than analysis. In fact, its core activity is design: the creation of new products to satisfy some need. If we try to relate design and mathematics, they seem two very different disciplines. Mathematics seems strict and formal with logic playing key role in proving new theorems. In contrast, design involves a great deal of creativity that seems to escape formality and logic or rationality, which are not viewed as the fundamental driving force in design.

However, a close examination of concepts and the practice of mathematics and design reveals that their relationships is much more interesting and deep than the service that mathematics provides to engineering analysis.

First, the process of developing mathematics is similar to developing or designing products. The practice of mathematics is rather social and not formal as perceived. Therefore, design concepts could be used to advance the practice of mathematics. Second, some topics in mathematics seem to be exactly design, for example, the design of forcing functions to support the generation of new sets from existing one. Such practice relates well to C-K theory of design. Third, sometimes topics in mathematics and design overlap in ways that could be used to bootstrap the inquiry in both disciplines.

Projects include:

More on the project will be posted in the future. We welcome new ideas and participation.


Publications include:

1.      Y. Reich, O. Shai, E. Subrahmanian, A. Hatchuel, P. Le Masson, “The interplay between design and mathematics: Introduction to bootstrapping effects,” Proceedings of the 9th Biennial ASME Conference on Engineering Systems Design and Analysis ESDA2008, Haifa, Israel, 2008.

2.      Y. Reich, A. Hatchuel, O Shai, and E. Subrahmanian, “A Theoretical analysis of creativity methods in engineering design: Casting ASIT within C-K theory”, Submitted to publication.


In preparation:

1.      Creativity Theories and Methods: A Study of C-K Theory and Infused Design

Related references:

See Infused Design;




Copyright © 2007-2009 Yoram Reich
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Last modified: 12/23/2008 9:12:00 PM