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Novice Students' Difficulties And Remedies With The Conceptualization Phase Of Design

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Capstone Design Pedagogy II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.917.1 - 15.917.13



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Paper Authors

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Rui (Celia) Pan Purdue University

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Shih-Ping Kuo Purdue University

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Johannes Strobel Purdue University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Novice students’ difficulties and remedies with the conceptualization

phase of design


Concept generation is an important phase in design26, when designers start generating ideas and develop thoughts. Concept generation is closely related with creativity design as designers often come up with novel ideas in this stage25.Unfortunately, previous studies reveal that student designers have a difficult time in the concept generation stage 6, 18. It is found that students are struggling with coming up ideas and alternatives. However, as not much research is done on the detailed problems student designers meet in conceptualization stage, why concept generation is difficult for students is still not clear.

In this study, we try to fill this gap by exploring what specific difficulties students meet in concept generation stage and further probe what strategies students use to overcome these difficulties. The research questions guiding this study are: 1) What difficulties student designers meet in the concept generation stage 2 What strategies students use to cope with those difficulties, especially difficulty related with creativity?

Literature review

What is design?

A number of studies have been done on how designers design. In general, research shows that design activity is different from typical scientific and scholarly activities. A distinct “designerly” form separates design from other activities7.

Lawson 23 compares the problem-solving strategies of designers with those of scientists and finds out that while scientists focus on “discovering the rules”, architect designers are more concerned with “achieving the desired results”. It is suggested that designers tend to be solution focused while scientists are problem focused. So the central feature of design activity is its “reliance on generating fairly quickly a satisfactory solution”7 (Chap1, p7)

It is also recognized that design problems are ill defined or ill-structured8, 33, 29 because design problems have underspecified or ambiguous goals, solutions and methods 29, 31. These uncertainties, not only bring constraints to design but also make design an open problem. Jonassen19 classifies design problem a unique type of problem and as the most complex and ill structured problem that encountered in practice. He points out that solving a design problem requires designers structure the

Pan, R. C., & Kuo, S., & Strobel, J. (2010, June), Novice Students' Difficulties And Remedies With The Conceptualization Phase Of Design Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16358

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