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Enhance Creative Thinking by Collaborating with Designers

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Spatial Ability & Visualization Training II

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.519.1 - 24.519.13



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Paper Authors


Yingjie Victor Chen Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Yingjie Chen is an assistant professor in the department of computer graphics technology of Purdue university. He received his Ph.D. degree in the areas of human-computer interaction, information visualization, and visual analytics from the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada. He earned Bachelor degree of Engineering from the Tsinghua University (China), and a Master of Science degree in Information Technology from SFU. His research covers interdisciplinary domains of Information Visualization, Visual Analytics, Digital Media, and Human Computer Interaction. He seeks to design, model, and construct new forms of interaction in visualization and system design, by which the system can minimize its influence on design and analysis, and become a true free extension of human’s brain and hand.

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Zhenyu Cheryl Qian Purdue University

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Enhance Design Thinking through Collaborating with DesignersTim Brown’s design thinking theory (2008) argues that “thinking like a designer can transform the wayyou develop products, services, processes – and even strategy”. However, many technical professionalswho are lack of design thinking skills can easily fall into the narrow iterative loops of optimizing a localsolution again and again. In this paper, we report a case study of training technology graduate students tothink like a designer in a system design competition through collaborating with design graduate students.In 2013 summer, two faculty members led a team of graduate students to work on the IEEE 2013 VAST(Visual Analytics Science and Technology) challenge “Situation Awareness Display Design”. The teamwas organized by computer graphics technology students from the College of Technology and interactiondesign students from the College of Liberal Arts. Technology students were skilled in programming andutilizing of computer applications, but had little training of graphic design. They are capable of creatinggraphics, but their senses of aesthetic were weak. Interaction Design students, on the other hand, are highlyskilled in artistic creation, but have shallow technical knowledge to understand the challenge problem andwere incapable of building interactive systems.The design challenge asked for innovative visualization system designs to support situation awareness formanaging large-scale computer networks. As a highly technical design question, it requires the participantsto not only understand the complex computer network problems but also suggest the innovativevisualization design ideas that “break the box” of existing methods. Our collaboration was very successful.The team submitted two entries, won the only two awards, and were titled as “Outstanding Creative Design”.To track and investigate this interdisciplinary design experience, we purposely collected and categorizedthe data of meeting minutes, white board discussion photos, and all kinds of system files at different stagesfrom the very beginning of the collaboration. We used Atlas.TI to analyze the qualitative data of designprocess and coded from two perspectives: engineering creation and design creation.  In engineering part, the process can be segmented into several iterative cycles. The process is composed by problem identification, ideation, design selection/combination, refinement, analysis, then followed by plan, implementation (Ertas & Jones, 1993). In the whole process, evaluation played an important role from selecting/filter good ideas until it achieved the improvement of the final product.  In design creation part, sketching was an important method to explore ideas in the design space as wildly as possible. The early design stage requires lots of idea sketches. These abundant alternatives are evaluated, filtered, and integrated as several mature ideas. After amplifying or detailing these several concepts with sketches, the designer starts to see obvious advantages and disadvantages of concepts, and then choose one concept (or a synthesized version) as final choice to fully implement(Buxton, 2010).The paper reviews this 10-week design process and specifically focuses on observing how the technologystudents were influenced by their design peers, starting to incline, accept, and generate “wild” designideas by themselves. Furthermore, we are keen to analyze faculties’ roles in this process and what kind ofstrategies can drive the collaboration and foster the creativity.

Chen, Y. V., & Qian, Z. C. (2014, June), Enhance Creative Thinking by Collaborating with Designers Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20410

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