Campus Units

Industrial Design

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Published Version

Publication Date


Conference Title

LearnXDesgin - The 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researches.

Conference Date

June 2015


Chicago, Illinois


Idea generation has frequently been explored in design education as an exercise of students’ “innate” creativity, and few tools or techniques are offered to scaffold ideation ability. As students develop their design skills, we expect them to demonstrate increasing ideation flexibility—a cognitive and social ability to see a problem from multiple perspectives, and to create more varied concepts within the problem space. In this study, we introduced three tools— functional decomposition, Design Heuristics, and affinity diagramming—to aid students’ ideation in a three-hour workshop. Participants included 20 students in a junior industrial design studio arranged in five pre-existing teams. These participants first decomposed the functions within an existing set of concepts they had generated, then selected a specific function and generated additional concepts using the Design Heuristics ideation method. Finally, teams organized these concepts using affinity diagramming to find patterns and additional concepts. Our findings suggest that this process encouraged students to try multiple ways of examining the existing problem space, resulting in a broadened set of final concepts. More striking, the instructional activities served to foreground differences in team members’ understanding of the problem they were addressing, fostering alignment of their problem statement and aiding in its further development.


This presentation is published as Gray, C.M., Yilmaz, S., Daly, S.R., Seifert, C.M., Gonzalez, R., What Problem Are We Solving? Encouraging Idea Generation and Effective Team Communication. LearnXDesgin - The 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researches. June 2015. Posted with permission.

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Design Research Society



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