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Design Heuristics Support Two Modes of Idea Generation: Initiating Ideas and Transitioning Among Concepts

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design Tools and Methodology I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.394.1 - 25.394.18



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Paper Authors

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James Loren Christian University of Michigan


Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna R. Daly is an Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Michigan in engineering education, earning her
doctorate from Purdue University’s Engineering Education program in 2008. Her research focuses on the investigation
and application of complex professional skills, specifically design ideation, innovation practices, and creative processes
within engineering, outside of engineering, and cross-disciplinarily. Her research includes an emphasis on the translation of research to practice in the form of pedagogy, curriculum development, and faculty support and programming in implementing evidence-based best practices in teaching and learning.

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Seda McKIlligan Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Colleen M. Seifert University of Michigan

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Richard Gonzalez University of Michigan

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Design Heuristics to Facilitate Multiple Modes of Idea Generation: Initiating Ideas, Modifying Concepts, and Concentrating Group BrainstormingOur workforce must be capable of innovation to face the Grand Challenges in Engineering of the21st Century; however, instructors find it difficult to teach students to “think innovatively,” andoften do not provide them with the necessary tools and methodology to generate creativedesigns. Creative thinking during idea generation in design has been traced to successfulinnovation. While there are a variety of proposed methods for idea generation, only one has beensystematically derived and empirically validated in scientific studies: Design Heuristics. DesignHeuristics are prompts that facilitate and guide design space exploration during conceptgeneration by helping designers initiate new ideas from scratch or transform existing ideas intonew solutions. A single Design Heuristic can produce a variety of designs depending on how it isapplied within a problem. The Design Heuristics were developed through protocol studies withexpert industrial and engineering designers and analyses of creative products.In this paper, we report on the outcomes of three different Design Heuristic implementationstudies. Each study was different in its design problem, participant expertise, group vs.individual work, and method of heuristic instruction. In one study, professional engineers from amanufacturing company used a subset of Design Heuristic cards in a team environment to guidean innovation workshop for a new line of consumer products. In the two other studies, freshmanstudents in introductory engineering courses were instructed on the use of Design Heuristics andasked to apply them to short design tasks. In one class, the students were asked to generate ideasfrom scratch for an unfamiliar design task. In the other class, the students were asked to useDesign Heuristics as concept modifiers to improve their ideas for their class project. We providesample case studies from each study, in which we show the successes and obstacles involved inthe implementation of Design Heuristics. In this paper, we highlight the benefit of DesignHeuristics in all three contexts, present data on participant design outcomes, and discuss keyfactors associated with successful implementation into design courses.

Christian, J. L., & Daly, S. R., & McKIlligan, S., & Seifert, C. M., & Gonzalez, R. (2012, June), Design Heuristics Support Two Modes of Idea Generation: Initiating Ideas and Transitioning Among Concepts Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21152

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