Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 April 2010
Two studies tested whether introducing images to designers during the design process lead to more useful design solutions as evaluated by the end users’ willingness to use the final design. It was hypothesized based on theories in cognitive science and design that there were at least two paths from images to usefulness. One path concerns analogically transferring within-domain properties to the design solution. The other path concerns mentally simulating end-user characteristics and preferences and inclusion of the user in the resulting design. Study 1 supported that random images led to increased outcome usefulness, and supported both hypothesized paths, by using within-domain products and end-user images as input. Study 2 showed that the image categories competed for attention, and that the within-domain product stimuli attracted the most attention and was considered the most inspirational to the designers. The practical use of the technique may lead to only marginally original products perhaps limiting its applicability to incremental innovation.