Campus Units

Industrial Design

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

2014 ASEE Annual Conference

Conference Title

2014 ASEE Annual Conference

Conference Date

June 15 - 18, 2014




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.


This is a proceeding from 2014 ASEE Annual Conference, June 15-18, 2014. Posted with permission.


© 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.

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American Society for Engineering Education



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