Investigating Ideation Flexibility through Incremental to Radical Design Heuristics

Baker, Ian
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Industrial Design
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Industrial Design

Idea generation tools facilitate engineers to think differently. A wide variety of such tools exist, although, they vary in focus, specificity, and usability. However, most are not empirically-validated or their impacts are rigorously assessed. An exception is the Design Heuristics which was derived from studying designers as they were ideating and then rigorously tested to determine its efficacy. These heuristics are cognitive prompts that help designers move freely from one concept to another. In our previous work, we investigated how individuals with different cognitive styles approached ideation using the Design Heuristics, as well as their perceptions of the tool’s impact. We found evidence indicating that students with different cognitive styles applied this tool differently in alignment with their cognitive preferences. Based on these analyses, we created a modified version of this tool, called the Incremental to Radical (I2R) Heuristics. This revised set illustrates heuristics’ application both incrementally and radically to the same design problem.

We aim to report on an investigation for the ways in which engineers with different cognitive styles perceive and apply these revised heuristics and the impact of the heuristics on the students’ problem solving processes and ideation outcomes. For this study, a set of engineering students took a cognitive style inventory to benchmark their tendencies for problem solving. Then, they were asked to use a subset of existing design heuristic cards to solve a design problem. In a second study, another set of students were asked to use the newly adapted ideation tool for cognitive style variation: The I2R cards. Both groups were given reflection surveys at the end of their sessions. Our preliminary results demonstrate that more innovative students found the adaptive applications of the heuristics to trigger more novel solutions, whereas the more adaptive students found that the innovative applications to be more inspiring.