One aspect of capturing design rationale is to provide a human readable high level summary of the design information contained in a set of conceptual design documents. Compilation of such a "design information map"      a location keyed summary of the information in the documents      constitutues the generation of design knowledge. We describe a project which does mapping of the design information contained in the text graphic pages of an electronic design notebook used by mechanical engineers.


Managing the complexity of design information in large mechanical engineering projects is a major problem, particularly the information from the all important but often neglected conceptual design phase. There is now a tool which can supply computer support to the conceputal design phase. Using the vmacs Electronic Design Notebook (TM) described in the acompanying paper, each designer can generate up to 1000 pages a year of conceptual text graphic design documents. Obviously, however, such a productive tool only compounds the information management problem. The original creator of the documents, as well as later viewers, need help in organizing and navigating through this enormous amount of information.

For instance, in the example described below, a single directory in the Electronic Design Notebook (EDN) dealt with one aspect of the design of the Tertiary Mirror Assembly for NASA's Space InfraRed Telescope Facility project. This Directory contained 1.3MB of text graphic data in 76 individual files; the data was interactively viewable as 145 screenfulls of information, and occupied 95 paper pages when printed out.

Knowledge is the best way to deal with large amounts of information; a map of design information is a very useful kind of knowledge. The DESIGN MAP MAKER system was created to generate such maps with minimal designer intervention.