This is part 1 of a three-part series on the application of the physical principle of least action to design. The principle of least action – fundamental to theoretical physics – was originally developed to describe and unify mechanical systems and later laid the foundation for modern theoretical formalisms such as optics and quantum mechanics. The principle of least action states that, of all possible paths along which a dynamical system may move from one point to another within a specified time interval, the actual path followed is that which minimizes action, where action is the product of energy and time. Any system that is designed for a target audience is optimized only if the “action” employed by the user(s) to interact with the designed system is minimized. In addition, a successful design must, over the lifetime of the design, anticipate any external agents that may act on the system and any internal constraints that may arise. When designing subsystems embedded within a larger-scale system, the optimum system design is one that minimizes action for the entire system, even if the action level of some subsystems is higher than it would be if designed to stand alone. This article employs a function-centric approach to describing design and designed systems in order to define terminology and critical relationships, translated from physics and mathematics, in support of the theory development. Part 2 of this series will address universal design within the framework of the least action principle. Part 3 generalizes the theory to the design process by addressing form- and function-designs with equal importance and by including value, assigned by those interacting with design, in determining the success of the design. Taken together, parts 1, 2 and 3 should be viewed as both necessary and sufficient to describe the application of the physical principle of least action to design.
|Keywords:||Least Action Principle, Principle of Least Action, Design Process, Design Theory, Universal Design, Design Principles|
Assistant Professor of Computational Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Professional Writing, Department of English, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
Information Technology Manager and Adjunct Professor, Reich College of Education, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
Professor, Faculty of Interior Design, Department of Technology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
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