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Sorting Out Creativity In Design Assessment

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

The Best of Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1094.1 - 13.1094.18



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Paper Authors


Kathryn Jablokow Pennsylvania State University-Great Valley

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Dr. Kathryn W. Jablokow is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and STS (Science, Technology, and Society) at the Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, Pennsylvania State University. A graduate of The Ohio State University (Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, 1989), Dr. Jablokow's teaching and research interests include robotics, control systems, and problem solving in science and engineering. She is a Senior Member of IEEE and serves on the Executive Committee of ASME's Technology and Society Division. Dr. Jablokow has developed and teaches a four-course graduate module focused on problem solving leadership and is currently investigating the impact of cognitive style on invention and design.

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Danielle DeCristoforo Lockheed-Martin

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Danielle DeCristoforo is a Proposal Manager at Lockheed Martin TSS (Transportation & Security Solutions) on the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) Program in New York City. Prior to this position, Danielle worked as a Systems Engineer at LMTSS (since 2002), where she was also a member of the Engineering Leadership Development Program (ELDP) and acted as Deputy Program Manager for a final group project. Danielle received her Master's degree in Systems Engineering from the Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, Pennsylvania State University, where she concentrated on problem solving in science and engineering and completed her professional paper on the creative style of products of invention.

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

Sorting Out “Creativity” in Design Assessment


This paper describes the early development of a practical framework for the assessment of products of design that is aimed at resolving some of the confusion surrounding “creativity” within that field. In particular, key concepts from problem solving theory are used to distinguish between the creative level and creative style of a product, and a new assessment instrument for the creative style of a product is introduced. The instrument is applied to a selection of fastener products to illustrate its use and explore its benefits and limitations.


Whether it takes place in industry or in the classroom, assessing the products of design is a challenging task that involves the evaluation of many interrelated factors. In addition to familiar criteria with fairly straightforward metrics (e.g., technical correctness, quality of performance, environmental impact), designs are often evaluated – both formally and informally – in terms of less concrete and generally ill-defined criteria like “creativity” or “innovativeness”. We say that these latter criteria are ill-defined because there is little consensus in the literature (even among experts) about the general definition of creativity, much less how creativity should be understood and interpreted when applied to specific domains like engineering design12, 19. The word “innovation” is currently suffering from a similar fate, with equally confusing results15.

In this paper, we will explore a framework for assessing products of design that helps alleviate this confusion by drawing a sharp distinction between the creative level and the creative style of a product. These two orthogonal (i.e., independent) dimensions have their roots in problem solving theory, where individual problem solvers are characterized by their diverse creative (cognitive) levels and creative (cognitive) styles11, 12, 16. In the context of the individual, creative level refers to a person’s capacity for problem solving, while creative style refers to the preferred manner in which an individual solves problems12.

Level and style can also be used to describe the outcomes of problem solving – i.e., to describe products. In this context, the creative level of a product refers to its degree of technical advancement and/or complexity, while the creative style of a product refers to its conceptual and practical relationship to the current technical “paradigm” or state-of-the-art. We will discuss in detail the distinction between the creative level and the creative style of a product and provide examples of features that characterize both.

In addition, we will present a new creative style assessment instrument for products of design. This assessment is based on six factors: the type of technical change represented by the product; the acceptability of the product; the technical feasibility of the product; the efficiency of the product; methods used in the product’s development and manufacture; and the knowledge context for the product7, all of which we will describe in detail. We will also demonstrate use of the instrument through its application to a sequence of fastener products developed between 1800 and the present (e.g., garment, slide, and “hookless” fasteners; various zipper designs;

Jablokow, K., & DeCristoforo, D. (2008, June), Sorting Out Creativity In Design Assessment Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3098

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