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Elliptic Fourier analysis and perceptual matching for the evaluation of bioinspired sketching in conceptual design

  • Zhongliang Yang (a1), Yumiao Chen (a2) and Zheng Liu (a3)

Biologically inspired design can be used to aid in conceptual design. Sketching is an important ideation process in conceptual design for recording and evaluating flashing moments of inspiration. The present study aims to provide a framework for exploring the effects of biological examples on the sketching contours of products, as well as the perceptual matching degree between design ideas generated via sketching and the desired functions. Elliptic Fourier descriptors with principal component analysis and perceptual matching were used to evaluate and compare the effects of biological examples, no examples, and human-engineered examples from different product categories and within one product category on the sketches in an experiment that involved 28 participants. The application of elliptic Fourier descriptors with principal component analysis shows that there are significant differences in the third and seventh principal components. It is also found that exposure to biological examples can produce more sketches with high perceptual matching degree than the other three conditions, but there are no significant effects of the example exposure on the Pearson correlation coefficients of semantic differential evaluation value vectors between design problems and sketches. These results demonstrate that exposure to biological examples will correlate with Elliptic Fourier descriptors of sketches and will not significantly increase the perceptual matching degree between sketches and the desired function.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to: Zhongliang Yang, College of Mechanical Engineering, Donghua University, Shanghai 201620, China. E-mail:
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