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How do designers generate new ideas? Design heuristics across two disciplines

  • Seda Yilmaz (a1), Shanna R. Daly (a2), Colleen M. Seifert (a3) and Richard Gonzalez (a3)

Research supports the central role cognitive strategies can play in successful concept generation by individual designers. Design heuristics have been shown to facilitate the creation of new design concepts in the early, conceptual stage of the design process, as well as throughout the development of ideas. However, we know relatively little about their use in differing disciplines. This study examined evidence of design heuristic use in a protocol study with 12 mechanical engineers and 12 industrial designers who worked individually to develop multiple concepts. The open-ended design problem was for a novel product, and the designers’ sketches and comments were recorded as they worked on the problem for 25 min and in a retrospective interview. The results showed frequent use of design heuristics in both disciplines and a significant relationship to the rated creativity of the concepts. Though industrial designers used more heuristics in their concepts, there was a high degree of similarity in heuristic use. Some differences between design disciplines were observed in the choice of design heuristics, where industrial designers showed a greater emphasis on user experience, environmental contexts, and added features. These findings demonstrate the prevalence of design heuristics in individual concept generation and their effectiveness in generating creative concepts, across two design domains.

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