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Industrial design is a complex activity. To improve its efficiency, one of the most important tasks is retrieving past design information. This study developed a customer need-based reference design retrieval method to provide engineering designers with easy access to relevant designs and related knowledge. Supervised by the similarity of technical specifications, the method is able to search for reference designs similar to the input customer needs based on fuzzy ARTMAP (FAM) neural network. By adjusting a single FAM parameter, designers can retrieve a proper number of reference designs. Our implementation example shows that the proposed method is an effective design retrieving tool.