Jonathan Cagan-Mechanical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Jonathan Cagan

George Tallman and Florence Barrett Ladd Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, College of Engineering

Co-Director, Integrated Innovation Institute

Co-Director, Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

Courtesy Appointment, School of Design

Carnegie Mellon University
Mechanical Engineering
5000 Forbes Avenue
Scaife Hall 419
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 412-268-3713
Fax: 412-268-3348


Professor Cagan's research focuses on design methods, theory and practice, including computational synthesis, cognitive-based design and interdisciplinary product development. His computational work on design conceptualization and product layout emphasizes computational representation, generation, and exploratory search of the design space. His premise is that computational tools must support a design process modeled by lateral exploration, followed by a focused investigation of one or more good designs. Based on this premise, much of his work has concentrated on stochastic and agent-based search techniques and cognitive mechanisms, and various grammatical representations to model, generate, and move within the design space. The result is a merging between design theory, artificial intelligence, cognition and operations research, giving a unique approach to addressing the conceptual design problem.

Professor Cagan's other area of focus is in user-centered design and integrated product development practice. He works closely with colleagues in industrial design and business in creating new methods for product design that emphasize product identification, strategy, emotion and user-driven realization. He also works closely with psychologists in the area of cognitive-based engineering design, seeking to understand and improve the ways that engineers create new innovations. His work has evolved from a synergistic relationship with industry, having worked with a variety of small and large companies including Navistar/International Truck, Apple, HP, Procter & Gamble, MSA, Respironics, Alcoa, General Motors, Whirlpool, RedZone Robotics, Bayer Material Science, DesignAdvance Systems, and Lubrizol, among others. Professor has also served as an expert witness for intellectual property litigation.

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B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester, 1983

M.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester, 1985

Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, 1990

Selected Publications

  • Cagan, J., and C. M. Vogel, Creating Breakthrough Products: Revealing the Secrets that Drive Global Innovation, 2nd ed., Financial Times PressUpper Saddle River, NJ, 2013. 
  • Boatwright, P. B. H., and J. Cagan, Built to Love - Creating Products That Captivate Customers, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2010.
  • Vogel, C. M., J. Cagan and P. B. H. Boatwright, The Design of Things to Come: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Products, Wharton School Press/Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2005.
  • Antonsson, E. K., and J. Cagan, eds., Formal Engineering Design Synthesis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2001.
  • Orsborn, S., J. Cagan and P. Boatwright, "Quantifying Aesthetic Form Preference in a Utility Function," ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol. 131, 061001-1-10, 2009.
  • Tseng, I., J. Moss, J. Cagan, K. Kotovsky, "The role of timing and analogical similarity in the stimulation of idea generation in design," Design Studies, Vol 29, pp. 203-221, 2008.
  • Fu, K., J. Chan, J. Cagan, K. Kotovsky, C. Schunn and K. Wood, “The Meaning of “Near” and “Far”: The Impact of Structuring Design Databases and the Effect of Distance of Analogy on Design Output,” ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol. 135, No. 2, pp. 021007-1-12, 2013.
  • Landry, L., and J. Cagan, "Protocol-based Multi-Agent Systems: Examining the Effect of Diversity, Dynamism, and Cooperation in Heuristic Optimization Approaches," ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol. 133, 021001-1-11, 2011.
  • Sylcott, B., J. Cagan, and G. Tabibnia, “Understanding Consumer Tradeoffs Between Form and Function Through Meta-Conjoint and Cognitive Neuroscience Analyses,” in press: ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, 2013.
  • Egan, P., J. Cagan, C. Schunn, and P. R. LeDuc, “Design of Complex Biologically-Based Nanoscale Systems Using Multi-Agent Simulations and Structure-Behavior-Function Representations,” in press: ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, 2013.