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Reverse Engineering Or Design Recovery: Two Approaches To Uncovering Designing

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.531.1 - 5.531.6



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Paper Authors

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Michael McCracken

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Wendy Newstetter

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2225

Reverse Engineering or Design Recovery: Two approaches to uncovering designing

W. Michael McCracken, Wendy Newstetter Georgia Institute of Technology

Abstract Many design problems are evolutionary and the need to uncover an existing design is an important part of the design process. Reverse engineering and design recovery are two terms that are often used to describe this process, but in fact the two have very different intentions. Reverse engineering or as we refer to it in this paper, product dissection, is an activity with the goal of recovering the mechanisms of an existing artifact. Design recovery is an activity with the goal of recovering the design processes that went into creating the artifact. Each of these are important elements of designing but we propose that design recovery is the activity students should engage in when learning to design. In other words, product dissection is one of the skills a designer may use in designing, whereas design recovery is a means of discovering design skills.

I. Introduction

This paper describes the use of design recovery as a vehicle for teaching and learning designing. We use this technique in our introductory design class at Georgia Tech. The technique consists of the deconstruction of artifacts in a manner similar to product dissectiona, courses, but we use the deconstruction as an opportunity to focus the student’s attention on the process of design. Unlike many introductory courses in design that emphasize product dissection, we focus on the process and not the product.

In this paper, we clarify the intentionality of product dissection and design recovery as very different vehicles for learning designing. The clarification goes beyond mere definitions buy

McCracken, M., & Newstetter, W. (2000, June), Reverse Engineering Or Design Recovery: Two Approaches To Uncovering Designing Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8670

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