Asee peer logo

A Case-Study Analysis of Design Heuristics in an Upper-Level Cross-Disciplinary Design Course

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Best of DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.23.1 - 24.23.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Julia Kramer University of Michigan, College of Engineering

visit author page

Julia Kramer is a senior in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has been working in design research for over a year, studying idea generation tools, design problems for experimental studies, and the ways in which teams work from ideation to prototypes. Her research interests include creativity and innovation in engineering, the intersection between engineering education and design, and the investigation of local users and stakeholders through ethnographic data collection. Julia also has experience as an undergraduate Instructional Aide working as a liaison between communities in Detroit and engineering students at Michigan. She works in two courses: a first-year design course related to urban agriculture and an upper-level cross-disciplinary design course focusing on engaged urban design.

visit author page


Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Shanna Daly is an Assistant Research Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research focuses on idea generation, design strategies, design ethnography, creativity instruction, and engineering practitioners who return to graduate school. She teaches design and entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her work is often cross-disciplinary, collaborating with colleagues from engineering, education, psychology, and industrial design.

visit author page


Seda Yilmaz Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Yilmaz is an Assistant Professor of Industrial Design who teaches design studios and lecture courses on developing creativity and research skills. For her research, she investigates design approaches and ideation, ethnography in design, foundations of innovation, creative processes, and cross-disciplinary design team dynamics. She is the author of more than 20 peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. She also serves on review, advisory, and scientific boards of various journals and conferences. Her current research focuses on identifying impacts of different factors on ideation of designers and engineers (funded by NSF), developing instructional materials for 77 cards (funded by NSF), and designing innovation workshops for students without design or engineering background and teaching them design thinking methodologies (funded by Procter and Gamble). She received her PhD degree in Design Science in 2010 from University of Michigan. She is also a faculty in Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program and a research faculty in Center for e-Design.

visit author page


Colleen M. Seifert Univ. of Michigan

visit author page

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan.

visit author page

Download Paper |


A Case-Study Analysis of Design Heuristics in an Upper-Level Cross-Disciplinary Design CourseDesign Heuristics is a design ideation tool drawn from empirical evidence including observationsof professional designers and analyses of award-winning products. Design Heuristics cardsprovide strategies for generating alternative designs during concept ideation. The motivation forthis research study was to investigate how Design Heuristics were utilized by novice designersworking in cross-disciplinary teams. We were interested in exploring the practical elementssupported by heuristic use and the degree to which heuristic use made an impact throughout thedesign processes of cross-disciplinary design teams. In our investigation, we also saw successesand challenges in the teams’ design processes, including patterns in the way team membersdeveloped, transferred, and synthesized their concepts. These patterns highlight importantfeatures of successful team concept generation and development.Using a case-study framework, we followed the design processes of eight cross-disciplinarystudent design teams enrolled in a semester-long upper-level design course. The teamsindividually chose their design projects based on their interests and preliminary research. In aclass session at the beginning of the term, the teams were taught how to use the DesignHeuristics cards, and were then asked to use the cards in the preliminary concept generationphase of their design projects. We collected copies of these preliminary concepts, and continuedto collect data in the form of reports throughout the semester at the Proposal milestone, theProgress Report milestone, and the Final Report milestone of the course. Using the data collectedat these three stages, we created “timelines” detailing each team’s progression through the designprocess. We analyzed these timelines for evidence of heuristic use that was present in the initialconcepts and carried through the design process to the final design. In performing this analysis,we also noticed patterns in the synthesis of concepts at various phases in the design process. Wealso saw how the teams transferred ideas when moving from one design process phase toanother.Our analysis revealed that all eight teams showed strong evidence of heuristic use in their latterdesigns following their initial heuristic-driven ideation session. Of these, seven teams showedstrong evidence of heuristic use in their final designs and prototypes. Because all eight teamsstudied were working on different design problems, our results demonstrate that heuristics workeffectively across different design contexts. This suggests that the Design Heuristics cardssupport practicality in a variety of design contexts and that heuristics can be utilized by novicedesigners and design teams to generate innovative solutions to a range of design problems.Our analysis also uncovered patterns in the way the teams progressed with their ideas throughthe design process. Seven of the eight teams studied showed evidence of concept synthesis intheir design processes. All eight teams showed evidence of direct transfer between designprocess phases at some point, meaning that they took their ideas, concepts, or prototypes fromone phase of the design process and transferred them directly and without abstraction to anotherphase. Only three teams showed evidence of transformation between design process phases atsome point, meaning that they displayed some abstraction when moving their ideas, concepts, orprototypes from one phase to another. These findings suggest opportunities for further researchand exploration of Design Heuristics and team concept development processes.

Kramer, J., & Daly, S. R., & Yilmaz, S., & Seifert, C. M. (2014, June), A Case-Study Analysis of Design Heuristics in an Upper-Level Cross-Disciplinary Design Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19915

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015