Skip to main content

Empirical support for problem–solution coevolution in a parametric design environment

  • Rongrong Yu (a1), Ning Gu (a1), Michael Ostwald (a1) and John S. Gero (a2)

This paper describes the results of a protocol study exploring problem–solution coevolution in a parametric design environment (PDE). The study involved eight participants who completed a defined architectural design task using Rhino and Grasshopper software: a typical PDE. The method of protocol analysis was employed to study the cognitive behaviors that occurred while these designers were working in the PDE. By analyzing the way in which the designers shifted between “problem” and “solution” spaces in the PDE, characteristics of the coevolutionary design process are identified and discussed. Results of this research include two potentially significant observations. First, the coevolution process occurs frequently within the design knowledge level (i.e., when using Rhino) and within the rule algorithm level (i.e., when using Grasshopper) of the parametric design process. Second, the designers’ coevolution process was focused on the design knowledge level at the beginning of the design session, while they focused more on the rule algorithm level toward the end of the design session. These results support an improved understanding of the design process that occurs in PDEs.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to: Rongrong Yu, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia. E-mail:
Hide All
Abdelmohsen, S., & Do, E.Y.-L. (2009). Analyzing the significance of problem solving expertise and computational tool proficiency in design ideation. Proc. Int. Conf. Computer Aided Architectural Design Futures, CAADFutures 2009, pp. 273–287. Montréal: Presses de l'Université de Montréal.
Abdelsalam, M. (2009). The use of the smart geometry through various design processes: using the programming platform (parametric features) and generative components. Proc. Int. Conf. Arab Society for Computer Aided Architectural Design, ASCAAD 2009, pp. 297–304. Manama, Bahrain: Arab Society for Computer Aided Architectural Design.
Aranda, B., & Lasch, C. (2008). What is parametric to us. In From Control to Design: Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture (Sakamoto, T., & Ferré, A., Eds.), pp. 194206. Barcelona, Spain: Actar-D.
Asimov, W. (1962). Introduction to Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice–Hall.
Atman, C.J., Chimka, J.R., Bursic, K.M., & Nachtmann, H.L. (1999). A comparison of freshman and senior engineering design processes. Design Studies 20(2), 131152.
Boland, R.J., Collopy, F., Kalle, L., & Youngjin, Y. (2008). Managing as designing: lessons for organization leaders from the design practice of Frank O. Gehry. Design Issues 24(1), 1025.
Chen, S.-C. (2001). The role of design creativity in computer media. Proc. Int. Conf. Education and Research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe, eCAADe 2001, pp. 226–231. Helsinki: eCAADe in cooperation with Mediatecture.
Chi, M.T.H. (1997). Quantifying qualitative analyses of verbal data: a practical guide. Learning Science 6(3), 271315.
Chien, S.-F., & Yeh, Y.-T. (2012). On creativity and parametric design—a preliminary study of designer's behaviour when employing parametric design tools. Proc. Int. Conf. Education and Research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe, eCAADe 2012, pp. 245–253. Prague: eCAADe in cooperation with Mediatecture.
Corne, D., Smithers, T., & Ross, P. (1994). Solving design problems by computational exploration. In Formal Design Methods for Computer-Aided Design (Gero, J., & Tyugy, N., Eds.), pp. 249270. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Cross, N. (2011). Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work. New York: Berg.
Cross, N., & Cross, C. (1998). Expertise in engineering design. Research in Engineering Design 10(3), 141149.
Dorst, K., & Cross, N. (2001). Creativity in the design process: coevolution of problem–solution. Design Studies 22(5), 425437.
Ericsson, K.A., & Simon, H.A. (1993). Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gero, J.S. (1990). Design prototypes: a knowledge representation schema for design. AI Magazine 11(4), 2636.
Gero, J.S., & Kannengiesser, U. (2004). The situated function–behaviour–structure framework. Design Studies 25(4), 373391.
Gero, J.S., Kannengiesser, U., & Pourmohamadi, M. (2014). Commonalities across designing: empirical results. Proc. Design Computing and Cognition ‘12 (Gero, J.S., Ed.), pp. 285302. Berlin: Springer.
Gero, J.S., & McNeill, T. (1998). An approach to the analysis of design protocols. Design Studies 19(1), 2161.
Hernandez, C.R.B. (2006). Design procedure: a computational framework for parametric design and complex shapes in Architecture. PhD Thesis. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
Iordanova, I., Tidafi, T., Guité, M., De Paoli, G., & Lachapelle, J. (2009). Parametric methods of exploration and creativity during architectural design: a case study in the design studio. Proc. Int. Conf. Computer Aided Architectural Design Futures, CaadFutures 2009, pp. 423–439. Montréal: Presses de l'Université de Montréal.
Jiang, H. (2012). Understanding senior design students’ product conceptual design activities —a comparison between industrial and engineering design students. PhD Thesis. Singapore: National University of Singapore.
Jiang, H., Gero, J.S., & Yen, C.C. (2014). Exploring designing styles using a problem–solution index. Proc. Design Computing and Cognition ‘12 (Gero, J.S., Ed.), pp. 85101. Berlin: Springer.
Kan, J.W.T., & Gero, J.S. (2008). Acquiring information from linkography in protocol studies of designing. Design Studies 29(4), 315337.
Kan, J.W.T., & Gero, J.S. (2009). Using the FBS ontology to capture semantic design information in design protocol studies. In About Designing: Analysing Design Meetings (McDonnell, J., & Lloyd, P., Eds.), pp. 213229. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Kan, J.W.T., & Gero, J.S. (2012). Studying software design cognition. In Software Designers in Action: A Human-Centric Look at Design Work (Petre, M., & van der Hoek, A., Eds.), p. 6177. Abingdon: Chapman & Hall/CRC.
Karle, D., & Kelly, B. (2011). Parametric thinking. Proc. Int. Conf. Parametricism (SPC) ACADIA Regional 2011, Paper No. 109, Lincoln, NE, March 11–12.
Kolarevic, B. (2003). Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing. New York: Spon Press.
Lammi, M. (2011). Characterizing high school students’ systems thinking in engineering design through the function–behavior–structure (FBS) framework. PhD Thesis. Logan, UT: Utah State University.
Lawson, B. (1997). How Designers Think: The Design Process Demystified. Oxford: Architectural Press.
Lee, J.H., Gu, N., Jupp, J., & Sherratt, S. (2012). Evaluating creativity in parametric design processes and products: a pilot study. Proc. Int. Conf. Design Computing and Cognition, DCC'12. College Station, TX: Springer .
Maher, M.L., & Kundu, S. (1993). Adaptive design using a genetic algorithm. In Formal Design Methods for Computer-Aided Design (Gero, J.S., & Sudweeks, F., Eds.), pp. 240248. Sydney: University of Sydney, Key Centre of Design Computing.
Maher, M.L., & Poon, J. (1996). Modelling design exploration as coevolution. Microcomputers in Civil Engineering 11(3), 195210.
Maher, M.L., Poon, J., & Boulanger, S. (1996). Formalising design exploration as coevolution: a combined gene approach. In Advances in Formal Design Methods for CAD (Gero, J.S., & Sudweeks, F., Eds.), pp. 330. London: Chapman & Hall.
Maher, M.L., & Tang, H.H. (2003). Coevolution as a computational and cognitive model of design. Research in Engineering Design 14(1), 4763.
Mitchell, W.J., Inouye, A.S., & Blumenthal, M.S. (2003). Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Ottchen, C. (2009). The future of information modelling and the end of theory: less is limited, more is different. Architectural Design 79, 2227.
Qian, C.Z., Chen, V.Y., & Woodbury, R.F. (2007). Participant observation can discover design patterns in parametric modeling. Proc. Int. Conf. Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, ACADIA2007, pp. 230–241. Halifax, NS: Riverside Architectural Press and Tuns Press.
Sanguinetti, P., & Kraus, C. (2011). Thinking in parametric phenomenology. Proc. Int. Conf. Parametricism (SPC) ACADIA Regional 2011, Paper No. 39, Lincoln, NE, March 1112.
Schnabel, M.A. (2007). Parametric designing in architecture. Proc. Int. Conf. Computer Aided Architectural Design Futures, CAADFutures 2007, pp. 237–250. Sydney: Springer.
Schön, D.A., & Wiggins, G. (1992). Kinds of seeing and their functions in designing. Design Studies 13(2), 135156.
Schön, D.A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.
Simon, H.A. (1969). The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Simon, H.A. (1973). The structure of ill-structured problems. Artificial Intelligence 4(3–4), 181204.
Suwa, M., Gero, J.S., & Purcell, T. (2000). Unexpected discoveries and S-invention of design requirements: important vehicles for a design process. Design Studies 21(6), 539567.
Suwa, M., & Tversky, B. (1997). What do architects and students perceive in their design sketches? A protocol analysis. Design Studies 18(4), 385403.
Tang, H.H., Lee, Y.Y., & Gero, J.S. (2011). Comparing collaborative co-located and distributed design processes in digital and traditional sketching environments: a protocol study using the function–behaviour–structure coding scheme. Design Studies 32(1), 129.
Woodbury, R. (2010). Elements of Parametric Design. New York: Routledge.
Yu, R., Gu, N., & Ostwald, M.J. (2012). Using situated FBS ontology to explore designers’ patterns of behavior in parametric envrionments. Journal of Information Technology in Construction 17, 271282.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0890-0604
  • EISSN: 1469-1760
  • URL: /core/journals/ai-edam
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 57 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 478 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 15th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.