Transdisciplinary (TD) working offers the potential to bring together potentially disparate elements of engineering projects permitting them to concomitantly be addressed on empirical, pragmatic, normative and purposive levels. Whilst the importance and potential benefits of working in this manner are widely accepted, a key inhibitor to the adoption and embedding of TD working in practice is the variety and diversity of design tools employed and their relative levels of ability to support TD working. To explore what can be thought of as the enabling or inhibiting roles of design tools, this paper appraises common design tools and classifies them according to the level of transdisciplinary working that they permit. This is achieved by considering the capturable level of design rationale for each design tool as per Jantsch and contextualising each within the design process. The discussion considers how these findings are reflected in practice and how chains of particular tools could be employed to support TD working across the different phases of the design process. In total 41 tools are appraised with 6 acting as enablers of interdisciplinary working but none identified as truly TD. Most notably, a much greater proportion of TD enabling design tools are available to support the early phases of design. Further work might consider how education can be used to ensure effective use of current design tools and how knowledge transfer can and should be, applied to enable use of TD tool chains in industry.
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