The combinatorial approach is useful when the designer or the "client" is not sure of the appropriate choices in the sequence of decisions which creates the design. In the combinatorial method, the designer must first identify the few most significant assumptions required for the scenario which will guide the design. The method relies on inductive logic. Each of these central assumptions is likely to have a range of requirements and/or partial solutions, for example population demands or the route of a proposed highway. Several -- but not too many as the number of alternatives will propagate fast -- of these alternatives are selected. A useful set to include is what can be considered the extremes of the possible range. The method then takes simultaneous combinations of these requirements and partial solutions and creates what generates design alternatives.
These alternatives must then be systematically evaluated before one is selected for further development. The great advantages of this approach is that it tests the most significant assumptions before proceeding much further into the design and it can therefore avoid serious mistakes. The liability of this approach is that it is both difficult to identify the most significant assumptions a-priori, and that the number of designs that must be generated from the simultaneous combinations can be very large indeed.
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