Doctoral Research

Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Engineering, 2014

Research Topic: A Methodology For Measuring Elegance In Engineered Artifacts

By Stuart Feldman

Abstract: Elegance has been asserted to be a characteristic of good design. To be useful in design, a measure of elegance that permits the comparison among designs is necessary. A measurement framework is developed for elegance of engineered artifacts using factors of usability and aesthetics. Usability is broken down into individually measurable sub-characteristics that include capability, user experience, and specific functionality. Complex attributes of aesthetics such as the absence of visual excess or a form which masks underlying complexity are quantified through characteristics that include slenderness, smoothness, and symmetry. These factors are based on the techniques and processes for integrating psychophysical attributes into engineering. This two factor method to measure elegance is illustrated using examples from aerospace systems such as the Boeing 707 and Concorde and consumer electronics including the PalmPilot and Apple iPhone. A technique for the subjective measurement of aesthetic characteristics is demonstrated in a study of aerospace vehicles. This method enables measurable comparisons among design options and the identification of specific areas of improvement to increase the elegance of the overall system. This method facilitates a better understanding of design quality, and can be directly applied to decisions faced by multidisciplinary product design teams.

 Elegance Measurement Framework

Elegance Measurement Framework


Committee Members

  • Dr. James Swain, Committee Chair - Professor, University of Alabama Huntsville
  • Dr. Paul Collopy, Advisor - Professor & ISEEM Department Chair, University of Alabama Huntsville
  • Dr. Phillip Farrington - Professor, University of Alabama Huntsville
  • Dr. Michael Griffin - Chairman & CEO, The Schafer Corporation, and former Administrator of NASA
  • Dr. L. Dale Thomas - Associate Director, Technical, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Dr. Gillian Nicholls - Assistant Professor, Southeast Missouri State University

Prior Committee Members

  • Dr. Paul Componation, Advisor - Professor & IMSE Department Chair, University of Texas at Arlington

The research performed for the creation and writing of this dissertation was entirely self-funded. The author, Stuart Feldman, owns all inventions conceived or developed under this research.

© 2014 Stuart M. Feldman.