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Object decomposition refers to hierarchically related modules, where each module represents a subsystem, presented schematically as a pyramid whose top is the higher-level system and base is the lower level subsystem. Subsystems may correspond to physical components, and in this case the decomposition is called component decomposition. Subsystems can also correspond to functions and the engineering disciplines which contribute to the system design. In this case the decomposition is referred to as aspect decomposition.

The Axiomatic approach is a good design model that describes object decomposition. Object decomposition typically occurs in a top-level fashion, where the system’s required functions are broken down into subfunctions. In parallel the system in its physical form is broken down into subsystems that can perform the subfunctions. Decomposition continues similarly until it reaches single parts. Throughout the process, design and testing of physical components are assigned to different disciplinary parties. This facilitates the synchronized development of different parts of the product by these parties. It should be noted however that in system synthesis and analysis, it is not typical that designers persistently follow a top-down decomposition process to the level of single parts. They can also iterate between upper and lower system decomposition levels according to what they can potentially learn within the process about the implications of some of their architectural decisions.

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