Chapter 12
Multi-Attribute Utility Analysis of Conflicting Preferences


This chapter addresses the aggregation of preferences for conflicting design objectives. It will clarify what a decision-based approach can and cannot contribute to the design process. A decision-based approach with multi-attribute utility analysis can be directly employed only for design evaluation and selection. However, by providing a logical structure for organizing and using all the information and analysis employed by designers, it can also contribute indirectly to all phases of design, including problem identification, creativity, synthesis, product development, experimentation and analysis. Specific problems that can be resolved with utility analysis are: lack of a systematic procedure for integrating preferences into the traditional design analytic framework, trade-off inaccuracies, inconsistencies and suboptimality. These problems result in a design process that sometimes takes too long (especially concurrent design), fails to address all interests early in the design process (or address then at all) and produces results that are not competitive in the marketplace. A constrained multi-attribute utility approach can help remedy these problems. The next section presents the formulation of the multi-attribute design optimization problem. Section 12.3 describes and resolves the most common misconceptions about multi-attribute utility analysis in design related to the independence conditions, the functional form, the distinction between trade-offs and constraints, subjectivity and group decision-making. Section 12.4 summarizes.

  • 12.1 Introduction
  • 12.2 Design Decision Problem Formulation
  • 12.3 Misconceptions about Multi-attribute Utility Analysis
  • 12.4 Summary and Conclusions
  • Acknowledgment
  • References
  • Problems

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