A Beginner's Guide to the Structural Engineering Basic Design Concepts © 2006,2008 T. Bartlett Quimby 

Section DC.2 Design Objectives Last Revised: 11/04/2014 Design objectives will change from problem to problem. As a designer, the engineer must be able to identify the objectives pertinent to the problem at hand so that alternatives may be compared. The problem objective can then be expressed as an objective statement. In structural engineering, the objective statement can also be put in the form of an objective function. Objective statements are generally expressed as "maximize" or "minimize" statements. Objective functions return a single value that can be used to compare alternatives. Some typical objective statements, and their associated objective functions, are:
Some objective statements contain multiple (and often competing) objectives. An example of such a statement is:
In multiobjective statements, the objective function must have weighting factors to combine the various sub objectives into an single factor. The weighting factors may have units to convert each of the terms to a common set of units before adding them together. For the example previously stated, the objective function may take the form:
Changing the relative values of the weighting factors will have a substantial impact on the final result, so they must be chosen carefully and with professional judgment. It is common to refine these weighting factors as the design progresses, taking into account professional judgment and experience with the design at hand. 