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A Typology of Design Ideas


Abstract and Figures

Design ideas are commonly used as an indicator of success of design methods and processes. Yet it is very rarely defined what precisely constitutes "an idea", and how such an idea manifests itself to the researcher. This paper presents an examination of design idea definitions based on a thorough study of 75 research contributions. We construct a typology of seven definitions of design ideas. The purpose of the typology is to offer shared definitions and descriptions of design ideas to design and creativity researchers, aiding a higher degree of specificity when studying and analyzing the emergence of ideas in design processes.
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A Typology of Design Ideas
Nanna Inie
Centre for Advanced
Visualization and Interaction
(CAVI), Aarhus University
Aarhus, Denmark
Peter Dalsgaard
Centre for Advanced
Visualization and Interaction
(CAVI), Aarhus University
Aarhus, Denmark
Design ideas are commonly used as an indicator of success
of design methods and processes. Yet it is very rarely
defined what precisely constitutes “an idea”, and how such
an idea manifests itself to the researcher. This paper
presents an examination of design idea definitions based on
a thorough study of 75 research contributions. We construct
a typology of seven definitions of design ideas. The purpose
of the typology is to offer shared definitions and
descriptions of design ideas to design and creativity
researchers, aiding a higher degree of specificity when
studying and analyzing the emergence of ideas in design
Author Keywords
Design ideas; idea definition; idea generation; design
processes; ideation; creativity; design theory
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI):
In interaction design research, we comfortably speak about
ideas and idea generation although the very core concept of
a design idea lacks a consensus definition. It is often used
interchangeably with words like concept, solution or design
move [4,64]. In this paper, we present a thorough literature
review to identify definitions and uses of the term “design
idea” in design and related disciplines. We suggest a
typology of design ideas, consisting of seven categories of
ideas. This work is motivated by challenges in our own
research into the emergence of ideas during design
processes: if we cannot clearly define what a design idea is
in the cases we study, we cannot systematically determine if
and when ideas emerge. And in a wider perspective, if we
do not have clear common definitions of design ideas in the
design and creativity research communities, we argue that it
hinders joint discussions and renders it hard to compare and
evaluate findings across cases.
In design vernacular, the notion of a design idea often refers
to a potential solution to a design problem. While this holds
true in some cases, things are not always that
straightforward. The following example from Dorst &
Cross’ 2001 canonical work on creativity in the design
process illustrates how design ideas extend beyond
potential solutions for a design problem. In this study, the
designer is redesigning the litter bins in the trains in the
“In the 26th minute, the designer has the idea of doing
away with the litter bins all together, and just make a hole
in the floor of the train. He then asks whether or not such
an idea would be out of the scope of the assignment, saying
he likes to manipulate assignments, because they are often
too narrow. Then he realises that there is already a litter
system in the trains, namely the toilets. He asks for some
information about that, and is genuinely shocked to hear
that they are just a hole in the train floor, which opens onto
the rails. He finds this an ugly, primitive, and very
backward solution, and adopts a new goal, namely to
change this also” [22].
Dorst & Cross show that defining and framing the design
problem is a key aspect of creative design. In this example,
the idea of changing the toilet system in the train appears as
a design idea, yet it doesn’t offer a solution to the original
design task. Furthermore, if the designer had discarded the
problem reframing in his final design, would this idea of
reframing have been counted one of his ideas? This
example shows how ideas can take other forms than mere
solution suggestions.
One of the key reasons for striving for a clearer definition
and typology of design ideas is that it can help us evaluate
ideas with respect to both their contribution to the outcome
of the ideation process, and their contribution to the process
itself [69,70]. If a design idea is not incorporated in the
final design, but inspires one or more ideas that are, the
creative value of the idea goes unnoticed if we evaluate
only the outcomes of the process.
The example above also shows that it may not be feasible
or preferable to establish a one-size-fits-all definition. To be
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clear, we are not stating that the notion of a design idea has
not been defined in research contributions, but the
definitions are mostly constrained to one or few studies,
while other studies offer different definitions. This is
expected, given that the studies have different foci; but it
comes at the cost of a limited opportunity to compare across
cases. Taken together, this points to the need for a typology
of design ideas. Our aim is that the typology in this paper
can be of value for design researchers who, like us, are
interested in analyzing the early stages of design processes.
We focus on ideas in context of the early stages of design,
what is epitomized by e.g. [38] as the conceptual design
phase. We use the term ‘design idea’ to limit the scope of
the analysis to ideas as they manifest themselves in design
processes. Though the reviewed literature sources span
from cognitive psychology to engineering design, they all
add to design discourse.
Structure of the Paper
The paper is structured as follows: first we clarify our
position regarding design as a creative- or problem solving
activity. Secondly, we present previous works that have
attempted categorizations of design ideas and their results.
In the third section, we describe our methodology in
commencing the literature review and present an overview
of the selected works. In the fourth section, we describe a
typology of ideas, and examine each of the categories and
their corresponding references. For the sake of overview,
we describe each idea type in two sections: a description
based on the cumulative references to this idea type, and
what an externalization of the idea may look like in
empirical data. Finally, in the sixth section we discuss
potentials and limitations of the typology and opportunities
for future research.
While not every idea qualifies as creative, every creative
outcome can be traced back to the good ideas that started it
[33]. And while creative ideas can happen during design,
they are not exclusive to design processes [2]. Designing is,
nonetheless, inherently a creative activity: “... there can be
no guarantee that a creative ‘event’ will occur during a
design process (…) However, in every design project
creativity can be found” [22]. In this section, we will
explain how we differentiate the term design idea from the
term creative idea and from problem-solving tasks.
Design and Problem-Solving
One of the ways designing differs from objective problem-
solving is that the designer often works with ill-defined and
unique problems, making every design process an ultimate
particular [72,54]. Studies of subjects in fMRI’s show that a
more extensive neural network is involved in the activity of
understanding and resolving design tasks than the network
involved in “normal” problem-solving tasks [2].
Creative problem solving is often described in terms of a
dual model: the associative mode of thinking lets us explore
our neural network for potential new connections, and the
analytic mode evaluates new associations in terms of their
feasibility [8,26,51,68]. There are many variations of this
model, but it is largely agreed that two systems are
simultaneously involved in creative cognition. One way of
distinguishing design ideas from other creative ideas in
their degree of goal-orientedness: “[Design] is essentially
guided by human purposes and is directed towards the
fulfillment of intended functions” [2], whereas creative
thinking is deployed in many activities besides design [24].
Not every design process results in a flash of creative
genius, and often ideas won’t appear as complete
illuminations [8], but rather the solution and problem
framing are both negotiated during the process, co-evolving
[22,89]. Design ideas emerge when the designer discovers a
matching problem-solution pair that satisfies his or her
requirements, or when “loose, surprising information is
linked into a coherent chunk, which offers a simplification
of the design problem” [15].
Design ideas take many forms, even on a semantic level.
We can have ideas, we can carry them around, generate
and discard them, and they can both live and die [52,9].
They are elements of thought [40], conceptions, that serve
us to reason with [33]. They can also be conceptual places,
that one can make lateral and vertical movements between
[62], while at the same time they can represent movements
themselves [31]. Physically, design ideas are often
represented as a simple sketch or sticky-note, though the
external representation is clearly not the idea itself - the
idea exists before even verbal externalization as a kind of
opportunity or glimpse of what could be in the future
[45,27,64]. In this section, we will explain how previous
selected works have conceptualized or categorized design
ideas. We will focus particularly on types of ideas, and how
such types have been defined.
Alpha, beta, gamma and delta ideas
A frequent way of characterizing design ideas is by their
relation to the design process they contribute to. One such
process-based classification by [5] divide ideas into three
types: 1. New idea, 2. Revisited/repeated idea and 3. Third
type (built on a previous idea). Idea development during the
design process is viewed as the activity of elaborating,
detailing or revising the idea along the timeline of design
thinking. [38] divide ideas into alpha-, beta-, gamma- and
delta ideas based on their temporal distribution in the
design process (see figure 1). Evidently, delta-ideas will
usually have a higher degree of complexity or richness than
alpha-ideas. The best delta-idea is the one who passes the
stage gate and enters the next level of the development
process. It is not further defined what the different idea
types entail, other than that they can be sorted sequentially.
Initial and developed ideas
Some studies make a distinction between ideas based on
their evolutionary state. [44] distinguish between initial
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ideas as the first instance of any idea, and developed ideas
as an initial idea, which is developed with more features
and/or details. In the participatory design study in [63], 120
teenagers generated about 50 design suggestions (and more
than 700 different design features) for an interactive water
bottle. The authors consider each design feature an idea,
and each design proposal is considered a design suggestion.
After an evaluation of all design suggestions, a group of
investigators made their own design suggestions based on
the participant ideas that they liked the best, resulting in
four final designs. Each of the final designs was then
broken down into its salient features, with the purpose of
analyzing how ideas (design features) had moved from the
original participant’s suggestion and been integrated into
the investigator’s final idea. As a result, the authors
identify four types of ideas:
Core ideas: those which many teenagers suggested
and more than one investigator used
Add-ons: those which many teenagers suggested
but only one investigator used (ADD-ONS)
Novel ideas: those suggested by only one teenager
that one or more investigators used
Ideas that came from outside the design space
(which were not in the participants’ suggestions)
We see several examples of characterizations of design
ideas based on their relation to the design process they are
part of. However, research has also shown that designers
often make use of what [32] calls stock ideas, ideas which
are stored in the designer's own memory or personal
archives, and that could become usable at another time.
These cannot be defined in terms of their relation to any
specific process, but as stand-alone items, sometimes based
on found information from other sources [43]. In summary,
we can confirm a lack of consensus among researchers, and
that methods for classifying design ideas have applications
in design research.
In the following, we present our approach to the literature
review and discuss its scope, benefits, and limitations. We
reviewed a total of 75 literary works: 73 academic papers
and the two books The Creative Mind by Margaret Boden
(1990) and Creative Cognition by Finke, Ward & Smith
(1992) (the overview of all the sources are presented in
table 1). As stated, our objective was to examine how the
concept of a design idea is articulated and defined,
motivated by the broader question “What is a design idea?”.
Our study focuses on research papers within design and
closely related fields (such as creativity studies, creative
cognition, engineering design and architecture), specifically
the stages of idea generation.
We were interested in both explicit definitions of design
ideas, such as “An idea, in this case, refers to a statement
by one of the designers that...” [4] and derived definitions,
where the author offers a description of design ideas, e.g.:
“Ideas emerge from sources of inspiration mediated by
design materials, the way in which they are negotiated
throughout the workshop, and combined into design
concepts” [35]. The reviewed materials build on various
types of data, which influences which aspects of design
ideas are discussed in the work. For instance, while studies
based on in-vitro experiments often look at obvious
externalizations of ideas, studies based on anecdotes and
interviews describe often the internal experience of ideas.
The data types for all the reviewed sources are indicated in
table 1.
We have strived to follow the principles for a systematic
literature review as defined by [56]. The systematic
characteristics can be defined as “a set of rigorous routines,
documentation of such routines, and the way the literature
reviewer negotiates particular biases throughout these
routines" [Ibid.]. For this reason, we will lay out our
approach in more detail in this section. Moreover, the
review interprets and reflects in the terminology of [ibid.],
aiming to bring forth “the salient and critical aspects of the
most current knowledge” including “substantive findings,
as well as conceptual, theoretical, and/or methodological
contributions”. Pre-existing knowledge of the domain
among the reviewer(s) is a central component to this
approach, and the review is thus informed in part by theory,
in part by the reviewers' prior work in the field of design
creativity and ideation [6,7,17,34,35].
To clarify the systematic approach, we initiated the review
using a keywords-based search through Google Scholar,
and selected readings based on the abstracts and citation
count (papers with less than 3 citations from before 2010
were deselected in favor of scientific impact). The
following terms identified a total of 33 unique papers (tier
1): design idea, design idea development, definition idea,
Figure 1: Idea classifications by Howard, Culley & Dekoninck (2011) [33]
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ideas design process, insight moments design, design idea
emergence, idea emergence, what is an idea. Secondly, we
used the search engines for all issues of Design Studies and
proceedings of the conference Creativity & Cognition,
which revealed another 14 works, bringing the tier 1 total to
47. Assuming that the total tier 1 works would build on
sufficient material to provide us with a sound historic
perspective, we collected tier 2 based on references from
tier 1, and recommendations and suggestions from peers
collected in conversations while composing this paper. Tier
2 adds another 28 papers to the stack, bringing the total to
75 works.
The authors used a scoring of 1-3 to classify the literature,
where 1 is highly relevant (offers a direct definition of
design ideas), 2 is relevant (uses the term ideas with a
vague or no definition, or builds directly on a relevance 1-
paper) and 3 is not relevant to the study. The rating 3 was
given to papers where the subject didn’t relate to our study,
for instance when using the term “idea” in the philosophical
sense, i.e. The idea of entrepreneurship as emancipation”
[25], or if it presented revised algorithms for idea metrics
[53]. The substantial amount of papers with the rating 3,
highlights how ambiguous and widespread the word idea is
within research. Of the total 75 works, 26 were given a
rating of 1, 26 were given a rating of 2, and 23 were rated 3.
Arbitration was carried out as continuous dialogue while
the typology was being developed.
After completing the work of collecting, reading and
annotating the papers, we were able to group the different
categories of contributions by identifying similarities and
differences in semantic use of the term idea. We found that
there was a clear correspondence between research field
and semantics. Thus, the overview in table 1 is organized
by year and field. The references are coded in line with our
relevance assessment: Bold means we classified the paper
as having relevance 1, grey is relevance 2 and italics is
relevance 3. If the work is a contribution to more than one
field, we have made a subjective assessment of which one
to categorize it within.
Our main challenge in the review was scoping. We kept a
very open approach in the initial steps, looking for
definitions from various fields. Then we narrowed our
search by only following references that guided us towards
specific definitions. Table 1 shows that a majority of the
reviewed material stems from the design field, and lies
within the years 2001-2010. We chose not to extensively
pursue historic references from the fields of cognitive
Simon 73
Akin &
Akin ‘96
Cross ‘97
Purcell & Gero
Suwa et al.98
Verstijnen et
al. ‘98
Dorst & Cross ’01
Kan & Gero ’05
Goldschmid t & Tatsa
Van der Lugt 01
Van der Lugt & Van
der Graaf ’02
Van der Lugt 03
Suwa & Tversky ’02
Jonson ‘05
Murty & Purcell ‘07
Bilda & Gero ‘08
Girotra et al. ‘ 10
Baker & van der Hoek ’10
Dix et al. ’06
Kan et al. 06
Halskov & Dalsgaard ’07
Tseng et al. ’08
Liikkanen et al. ’09
Yamamoto et al. ’09
Yilmaz et al. ’10
Nelson et al. ’09
Howard et al. ’08
Goldschmid t &
Sever ’11
¨Howard et al. ’11
Daly et al. ’12
Lund &
Prudhomme ’13
Siangliulue et al.
Read et al. ’16
Bratteteig et al. ’16
Cardoso et al. ‘16
Holt et al. ‘85
Shah et al. 00
Shah et al. 03
Badke-Schau b &
Gehrlic her ’03
Perttula & Liikkanen ‘06
Perttula & Sipil ä ’07
Perttula et al. ’06
Perttula ’06
Sosa et al. ’09
Tanaka et al. 09
¨Toh & Mill er ’15
Davies &
Talbot ‘87
Boden ‘90
Ishii & Miwa ‘02
Scardamalia & Bereiter
Wiltschnig et a l. ’10
Wiltschnig & Onarheim
Coughlan & Johnson ‘08
¨Wiltschnig et
al. ’13
Kerne et al. ’14
Sosa & Dong
Starkey et al. ‘16
Finke et al.
Seifert et
al. ‘94
Soufi &
Edmonds ‘96
Gabora ‘ 02
Colunga & Smit h ‘03
Liikkanen & Perttula ‘10
Kim & Kim ‘15
¨Alexiou et al. ‘09
Goel ‘ 10
Mayseless et al.
Manage ment
or marketing
Dahl & Moreau ’02
Goldenb erg et al. ’01
Tschang ‘03
Riedl et al. ‘09
Fleischm ann ‘06
Prabir & Amaresh ‘07
Fernández &
López ‘11
Table 1: Overview of selected works based on year, field, relevance to the study, and methodology.
indicates that th e work is mainly based on in-vivo observations.
indicates that th e work mainly builds on in-vitro experiments, and
means the work is largely informed by anecdotal interviews, surveys, or after-the-fact analysis.
No indication means the work does not build on empirical data.
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science, neuroscience and marketing and management
research, due to our focus on the design field.
The review has been comprehensive in the sense that we
found a great overlap in definitions and references in all the
literary sources surveyed. It has also been possible to
identify overarching themes in the literature, such as a
general confirmation of our research question; the term
design idea is often vaguely or not at all defined. In some
instances, the authors clarify directly how they view the
term for their personal analysis purposes, suggesting again
that such a definition is useful and needed.
We must stress, however, that our review is not exhaustive.
Because we look for definitions on a semantic, textual
level, we are constrained by search engine capabilities, and
we ask that the review is read with this stipulation in mind.
Information retrieval systems are imperfect, and it is
unlikely to achieve perfect recall while having useful
precision. Rather, best-effort is the preferred method, and
some documents may escape retrieval [65]. The review is
also subject to some degree of subjectivity, as we have used
our best judgment to arrive at useful categories for the
different definitions of ideas. Several papers pointedly use,
for instance, the term design move, interchangeably with
ideas. We will return to this topic in the descriptions of the
different idea types. In the following section, we will
present our typology of design ideas and explain how the
categories have emerged.
Table 2 shows the different uses of the term design idea we
discovered and their corresponding references. Each cell
represents a form a design idea can take. By form we mean
a conceptual shape which previous research has considered
‘a design idea’ and used as a basis for analysis - either to be
able to quantify ideas or to be able to delimit ideas for the
purpose of saying something about them. The diagram
should be read as follows: There are 4 types of particular
idea types, meaning they are by and large mutually
exclusive. Normally, an idea is not both a reframing of the
problem and a solution1. There are 3 types of general idea
types, which are categories that any of the particular ideas
can also be, but are not necessarily. A new, innovative
feature of a product can, at the same time, be both a
suggestion for a part-solution, a design move and an insight
moment. A design idea cannot be of general type, if it is not
a particular one.
When a reference falls into more than one category (i.e.
explicitly uses more than one definition), the reference is
listed under both categories. References that offer a specific
definition or that investigate an original definition of design
ideas are presented in bold font while references building
1 With the exception of the concept co-evolution of problem
and solution [22,89], which we will elaborate further on
under the description of these types.
Particular type 1
(Re)framing the
Dorst & Cross (2001),
Baker & van der Hoek
(2010), Wiltschnig et al.
(2013), Alexiou et al.
(2009), Cardoso et al.
Particular type 2
Finke et al. (1992), Sosa
& Dong (2013), Kerne et
al. (2014), Mayseless et
al. (2015), Bratteteig et
al. (2016), Dix et al.
(2006), Coughlan &
Johnson (2008)
Particular type 3
Suggestion for
Cross (1997), Perttula &
Liikkanen (2006), Baker &
van der Hoek (2010), Kim
& Kim (2015), Read et al.
(2016), Van der Lugt (2001),
Halskov & Dalsgaard (2007)
Particular type 4
Suggestion for solution
Shah et al. (2000), Goldenberg et al. (2001), Dorst & Cross
(2001), Shah et al. (2003), Perttula & Sipilä (2007), Riedl et al.
(2009), Goldschmidt & Sever (2011), Howard et al. (2011), Dahl
& Moreau (2002), Badke-Schaub & Gehrlic her (2003) , Perttul a
(2006), Perttula et al. (2006), Tseng et al. (2008), Liikkanen et al.
(2009), Girotra et al. (2010), Yamamoto et al. (2009), Yilmaz et al.
(2010), Fernández & López (2011),
Daly et al. (2012), Toh & Miller (2015), Starkey et al. (2016)
General type 1
Design move
Goldschmidt (1990), Purcell & Gero (1998), Van der Lugt & Van der Graaf (2002), Van der Lugt (2 003), Kan & Gero (2 005), Goldschmidt & Tatsa (2005),
Kan et al. (2006), Bilda & Gero (2008), Baker & van der Hoek ( 2010)
General type 2
Insight (moment)
Davies & Talbot (1987), Boden (1990), Seifert et al. (1994), Akin & Akin (1996), Murty & Purcell (2007), Wiltschnig & On arheim (2010), Wiltschnig et
al. (2010)
General type 3
Plan for action
Riedl et al. (2009), Van der Lugt (2001)
Table 2: A typology of design ideas.
Some references appear more than one time, if they offer more than one definition of design idea.
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on another paper’s definition are presented in italics
directly following the original reference. References where
the definition has been derived from context or use
examples in the analysis are presented in a regular font.
General Comments on the Typology
During the analysis, it became clear, perhaps unsurprising,
that the definition of idea depends on the research scope of
the paper in question, and thus the data collection. When
the aim is to study efficiency of a design method, the
authors have often put a constraint in the study design,
allowing them to quantify the generated ideas, e.g. asking
the subjects to externalize every unique idea on individual
sheets of paper or sticky-notes [e.g. 59,71]. Some fields
show relatively constrained definitions of the term idea,
particularly the fields of business and engineering, which
generally view the design idea in light of a production
chain. In these fields, an idea is a suggestion for a solution
to a design problem (e.g. [69,70]), or a proposal towards
development of a new product [23]. A design idea can be
quite a large entity, containing a lot of information about
features and potential uses. Fields like cognitive science,
creativity research and psychology tend to use much
broader definitions, viewing design ideas as various forms
of creative discoveries or insights (e.g. [8,24]).
Design fields generally study externalized ideas: “notions
related to a (design) task that have been communicated
verbally in studio sessions, in one-on-one critiques or
group discussions [33], whereas especially the fields of
creativity research and cognitive science do not draw this
distinction: “ideas are the basis of conceptual design
activity, whether they are drawn as they come into mind or
not drawn” [5]. In these fields, design ideas can be as small
as "notions", not necessarily externalized.
Another interesting observation is that while a vast majority
of the references fall under the suggestion for part-solution
and suggestion for solution categories, many of them don’t
offer their own distinct definition. Meanwhile all the
references under insight moment are in bold, indicating that
they provide a first-hand definition or that they directly
investigate this definition. Since insight moments are often
related to Big-C-discoveries [73], discoveries that change
the world, it might be unsurprising that these have had a lot
of scientific focus. The type design move was clearly
defined in one distinguished paper [31], which several later
works refer to and build upon.
In the following section, we will elaborate on each of the
definitions. For the sake of clarity and applicability, we will
divide each section into a description and examples of how
the types are recognizable for the design researcher. One of
the central challenges of conducting studies of creative
processes is our limited access to the mental processes that
precede an externalized idea [2,51]. Often, written or drawn
externalizations such as sketches and sticky-notes are our
primary indication of idea emergence - a tangible way of
quantifying ideas. In this study, we have reviewed both
works that only look at externalized ideas (e.g. [4,33,91]),
and works that focused on ideas as neurological activity
(e.g. [26,51]), but for the sake of applicability of the
typology, we try to offer a description of how the different
types of ideas may be externalized and observable to the
researcher. We understand externalization as any
expression of computational offloading [66] or discoverable
manifestation: “a way of taking information or mental
structure generated by an agent and transforming it into
epistemically useful structure in the environment. It is a
way of materializing structure that first was mental” [45].
Particular Type 1: (Re)framing the Problem
Studies have found that defining and framing the design
problem is a key aspect of achieving creative design
solutions [22] and that experienced designers often
deliberately modify or manipulate a design brief to make it
challenging or interesting, and to provoke new creative
responses from themselves [2,21,22]. A creative design
process involves a period of exploration in which the
problem and solution spaces are said to be co-evolving,
remaining unstable until (temporarily) fixed by a ‘creative
bridge’ that identifies a problem-solution pairing [15,89].
Design ideas can therefore be an attempt to develop or
frame the problem space.
Framing or reframing the problem offers a new way of
structuring the design process: “Design is not a matter of
first fixing the problem and then searching for a
satisfactory solution concept, but of developing and refining
together both the formulation of a problem and ideas for a
solution, with constant iteration of analysis, synthesis and
evaluation processes between the two notional design
‘spaces’” [22]. Some designers have been shown to
habitually try to 'break' instructions of a design proposal
simply for the purpose of revealing opportunities that
weren't there before [2].
Externalization or indicators:
Problem framing can often be observed directly in design
conversations or think-aloud-individual work [22]. During
group work, high-level questions can indicate an
exploration of the problem space, in that questions can
facilitate so-called inflection moments in the group [10]. [4]
describes a definition of an idea as statements by one of the
designers that characterize the provided problem. Some
studies have looked for transcription segments that contain
references to the design requirement, specifically
statements that either: a) add a novel requirement, b)
interpret or make revisions to an existing requirement, c)
bracket a requirement (“we’re not going to be dealing with
that here”) or d) delete a requirement [89].
Particular Type 2: Opportunity
Design ideas can be understood as expressions of possible
choices within a design process. With the creation of the
Session: Sense Making for Creativity
C&C 2017, June 27–30, 2017, Singapore
Geneplore model, [24] suggests that different aspects of
creativity, whether it is artistic creation or scientific
discovery, lie along the same continuum. All forms of
ideation can be understood within the same model of
generative and explorative phases. First, the ideating
individual constructs mental representations called
preinventive structures, having various properties that
promote creative discoveries. These properties are then
exploited during an exploratory phase, where the individual
seeks to interpret the preinventive structures in meaningful
ways. When a creative discovery is made, an opportunity
presents itself.
Opportunities can also be expressed as curations of
inspirational material; what [43] calls Inspiration Based
Ideation or IBI. In their work, they demonstrate how the act
of finding, choosing and curating inspirational material can
both express ideas and lead to new idea emergence revealed
only by combining other elements such as can be seen
when designers create mood boards. Another example of
utilizing ideas as opportunities is the technique BadIdeas, as
developed by [21]. The technique encourages designers to
make up 'bad' or 'silly' ideas, that aren't technically feasible
or even desirable, with the purpose of inspiring creativity
and critical thinking. An example could be a glass hammer
or a chocolate greenhouse. BadIdeas are instances where
ideas can be both creative and novel, but not actually
suggestions for solutions.
Externalization or indicators
An example of an idea as an opportunity is an idea that
opens up a possibility, but doesn't have immediate
application - at least not in relation to the design at hand. It
may have immediate application to the process, such as
BadIdeas. Some studies have looked for opportunities in
textual communication by looking for suggestive keywords
such as: Would be, wish, maybe, could be, guess, mean,
version, if you/if we, wonder and also [74].
Individual designers often store ideas and inspirational
material for later use. The value of an idea is largely related
to the context it is deployed in, which gives designers an
incentive to keep good ideas until they are in a position to
use them [14]. Hence, the designer's personal archive can
be said to represent opportunities for design.
Particular Type 3+4: Suggestion for Solution or Part-
We have chosen to describe suggestion for part-solution
and suggestion for solution in the same section, as their
characteristics are categorically similar.
Ideas as solutions or suggestions for part-solutions is by far
the most represented and commonly used definition in our
survey. While externally, these two types look different,
they share the same descriptive characteristics, so we will
include them both in this section. Due to the amount of
references in these categories, we will not go through all of
them in depth, but simply explain how they relate to the
category in terms of contribution.
The idea as a suggestion for a (part-) solution can be
defined as "An explicit description of an invention or
problem solution with the intention of implementation as a
new or improved product, service, or process within an
organization" [64] and “- a design concept which was
generated to satisfy the design brief, and has at least one
determined feature related to the product itself such as
shape, functionality, or material [44]. Searching for or
exploring solutions (or sub-solutions) is a core activity in
design [15]. The majority of studies that use the term
solution suggestion synonymously with ideas, are in-vitro
experiments that examine different design methods
Our initial search revealed several works that explore ways
to qualify design methods from an outcome-based
perspective [23,28,30,69,70 among others]. An outcome-
based approach means that the ideas that are generated in
the process are the basis for evaluating how successful the
design method is. The outcomes are here analogous to
suggestions for solutions. The four most common
effectiveness measures for ideas in this sense are quantity
(total number of ideas generated), quality (feasibility of the
idea), novelty (how unusual or unexpected the idea is) and
variety (how well the idea explores the solution space)
[38,69,70]. Interestingly, [81] has shown that engineering
students tend to focus primarily on the technical feasibility
of a design idea, even if they are explicitly instructed to
look for creative solutions. Another study has shown that
while design methods often focus on making the designer(s)
explore the solution space, overall creativity during the idea
generation does not necessarily predict the creativity of the
final design [77]. The decisions and selection of solutions
appear to play as significant a role in the design process as
the generation of ideas [3,81], as the ability to assess the
quality of an idea is not analogous to the ability to generate
creative ideas [28,77].
Externalization or indicators
The greater amount of our literature sources look at
sketches or written design proposals when distinguishing a
part-solution or a solution. A way of discerning and
quantifying ideas as solutions in a design process is to
simply make the participants self-assess their idea count by
asking them to externalize their ideas on separate pieces of
paper [59]. In group studies, it has been shown that a
significant amount of agreement has often been reached
before a solution concept is externalized [35]. Often the
externalization marks the termination of the development of
that concept, and participants will move onto a new concept
or a new subject of conversation [4,35]. While the designer
is developing a design solution, different design features
evolve, which correspond to our understanding of part-
solutions or sub-solutions [15,63].
Session: Sense Making for Creativity
C&C 2017, June 27–30, 2017, Singapore
Solution suggestions have conceptual strength if they
embody a potential solution form that satisfies key
problems, but still have the malleability to be modified and
refined [15]. The externalizations of solution suggestions
tend to summarize a recognizably good solution [15].
Often, they are sketches, which can serve several functions:
thinking sketches support the individual thinking process,
talking sketches support the group discussion, prescriptive
sketches communicate design to people outside the design
group and storing sketches archive the designer's own ideas
General Type 1: Design Moves
The term "design move" originates from Goldschmidt’s
significant work on linkography as a method for
investigating the integratedness of a design process [31].
The hypothesis is that the more links to subsequent
discussions, an idea creates, the better it is. In this method,
a design process is represented by sequential ‘design
moves’, and links between them. Design moves were
originally defined as individual design propositions made
with the purpose of arriving at satisfying visual
representations, but the definition has been expanded and
elaborated in later studies, e.g. [33,41,86]. The process of
designing is seen as a succession of acts of reasoning, and
each of these acts is called a design move [31]. A design
move is therefore any (reasoning) act within design, even if
it doesn't involve a visual representation. Later works have
used the term design move interchangeably with ideas
[4,32,33] which is why the term belongs in the typology.
Design moves help identify good ideas in the design
process: good ideas are critical ideas, in the sense that they
generate a large number of links (they motivate many other
design moves), and very good ideas are those that spin the
largest number of links among themselves and other ideas
[85]. However, studies have also shown that ideas with too
many forelinks might indicate fixation [41]. While the term
design move is sensible in terms of analyzing a design
discussion, there is a blurry line between design moves and
ideas. Building on Schön’ish terminology, [9] offers a
distinction based on the “move”-property: A ‘design
move’ (…) consists of the designers’ evaluation of a
situation, a move to change it and an evaluation of the
move as a step closer to the final result. In this light a
design idea is what the move is about: a suggestion for a
particular (part of) a design solution to be tested and
evaluated through the move”. In such understanding, each
design move, however small, towards a satisfying design
can be viewed as a design idea.
Externalization or indicators
As described in the previous section, design moves have the
analytic advantage that they are confined to observable acts.
Some studies delimit single moves by tagging utterances
sequentially [42], and some studies rely on the designers'
own after-the-fact assessments [31]. The common method
among the researchers using linkohraphy is protocol
studies. If designers use sketching, design moves can be
identified from the ongoing generation of representations
and restructuring of these representations as they move
forward [62]. [86] establish a set of context criteria to
identify links between design moves based on observation
alone: time span (temporal closeness can mean conceptual
closeness), inspection, physical reaction, verbal reaction,
withdrawal, explanation, addition, location (spatial
closeness can mean conceptual closeness) and scheme
resemblance (resemblance in visual representations). These
context criteria are useful in establishing links, however not
moves themselves. Even though linkography is widely
accepted as an analysis method, previous works have
concluded that defining design moves undeniably requires a
great amount of subjective assessment and common sense
of the researcher [86].
General Type 2: Insight Moment
Insight moments, or “Aha!”-moments, are at the very core
of creativity. They are what most people think of, when
they think of ideas. These are the moments symbolized by
the famous light bulb turning on, indicating a new exciting
idea. An insight moment can be described as "a flash of
lightening or the sudden appearance of a solution to a
problem the individual had been working on" [8], and [19]
reports a designer describing the moment as a feeling of
"becoming aesthetically literate". In an instance, suddenly
and unexpectedly the solution to a problem becomes
apparent together with feelings of clarity and satisfaction
According to Wallas' model of creativity [88], the insight
moment, or illumination is the third of four stages, preceded
by the preparation stage, the incubation stage and followed
by the verification stage. Research into the cognition of
these moments have shown the importance of reaching an
impasse (e.g. failure to solve a problem on the first try)
before the insight moment can be reached. The impasse is
thought to leave failure indices in long-term memory,
preparing the mind for the moment when relevant
information, which can be used to solve the impasse, may
be available [68,52,1].
The insight moment or imago is often experienced when the
designer knows that the idea is just right, a momentary
glimpse of absolute perfection, where the physical-world
manifestation of the ideas is always less than satisfactory to
the designer [19]. The experience can be quite addictive,
and it is hypothesized that particularly creative designers
may be distinguished by their ability to achieve these
moments more often than others [ibid.].
Session: Sense Making for Creativity
C&C 2017, June 27–30, 2017, Singapore
Insight moments can be related to the finished design
solution as well as the process, for instance when a problem
solver breaks free of unwarranted assumptions or discovers
a new way of approaching the problem. They usually have
the character of unexpected discoveries [52]. Insight
moments can happen during all forms of problem solving
work, and are not exclusive to design [1]. An example of a
problem-solving insight is the classic nine-dot-puzzle.
where people often set up self-made constraints by
assuming they have to stay “within the box”, to be able to
solve the puzzle. When the solution is discovered, it is often
results in an aha!-moment [ibid.].
Externalization or indicators
Designers have reported experiencing, among others, the
following phenomena during an insight: Oneness,
transcendence of self, ecstatic feelings and lack of anguish,
synthesis, obviousness and effortlessness [19]. Due to this
emotional character, insight moments can usually be
identified by the designer’s self-appraisal or memory [40].
They can even happen to a group of people simultaneously:
“One of the nurses stood up and used an existing product to
demonstrate a specific user challenge. At a certain point in
her demonstration members of the design team suddenly
interrupted her, as they wanted to share an idea with the
team. As it turned out, four out of six team members had got
the same idea [91]. Often an insight moment can be
observed as a pivotal moment in the design process,
providing an immediate focus for the designer(s) [15].
General Type 3: Plan for Action
Design ideas can be expressed as planning for the next steps
in the process. [84] divides creative problem solving into
three main components:
Understanding the problem, where the goal is to
identify specific directions for ideas
Generating ideas, preferably many, varied and
unusual ideas
Planning for action, where ideas are transformed
into action).
Due to the goal-oriented nature of design [70], the designer
will often be aware that ideas have to be transformed into
action at some point. This planning can be a part of the idea
development process. Furthermore, plans for how to
structure the future parts of the design process (such as
which part of the project to work on next) can also be
viewed as design ideas, although this definition is not very
Externalization or indicators
Action plans in a group process are often verbalized. [64]
defines an idea: "An explicit description of an invention or
problem solution with the intention of implementation as a
new or improved product, service, or process within an
organization". By this definition, a design idea contains the
specific intention of implementing it, which we understand
as a plan for action. By this definition, if a designer says
"I've seen this material used in a similar construction
before", but he does not intend to implement the material,
he is not making a plan for action. If he says "We're going
to use this material!", he is making a plan for action.
We intentionally do not offer one common definition to the
term design idea, but rather propose a typology to suggest
that a design idea, depending on the perspective, situation,
and research focus, can appear in different forms. The most
prevalent definition of a design idea falls in the category of
suggestion for solution. Since design is in a broad sense
about creating novel solutions, this is not entirely
surprising. However, the main part of the definitions fall
into other categories, emphasizing that there is no
consensus about what constitutes a design idea.
Documenting and Analyzing Design Ideas
We argue that a more precise documentation of design
processes will lead to heightened awareness, deeper
reflection and ultimately, better design processes, for both
researcher and practitioner. We see the typology as serving
several purposes. Firstly, it offers an overview of
contributions in the field, which can help researchers situate
their work in relation to existing work. Secondly, the
typology can serve as a platform for identifying and
studying various types of design ideas; this can help us in
documenting and analyzing design processes by enabling us
to define which idea unity we are particularly interested in.
Thirdly, it can support discussions and comparisons across
cases, potentially yielding novel insights through studying
similar phenomena across multiple design projects.
When documenting the design process, a palpable problem
is how to visualize our data. How do we know when an idea
has emerged? What the limits of an idea are? Can a
sentence contain an entire idea, or is it merely a part of an
idea? A clearer definition of design ideas can make
documentation of observed design processes more rigorous.
Figure 2: The nine-dot puzzle. The task consists of
connecting all 9 dots with four straight lines, leading many
people to believe that the lines have to stop within the
frames of "the box"[48].
Session: Sense Making for Creativity
C&C 2017, June 27–30, 2017, Singapore
As design researchers, we need tools for documenting the
design process to study and compare our results.
Limitations and Potentials of the Typology
The design idea typology is a first attempt at structuring
what has proven to be a highly complex concept. It is first
and foremost a deep dive into literature on design and
creativity in order to establish an overview and identify
common definitions. One potential limitation in our
approach is that we could have applied a wider set of search
parameters, e.g. by looking to other fields beyond design
and creativity research. E.g. the field of philosophy has a
long history of studying the nature of ideas. We have
deliberately kept the survey more contained in order to
focus on works that specifically address the notion of a
design idea, but further studies that integrate other
perspectives and articulations of ideas can add to this work,
e.g. via insights into how different types of ideas are
A second limitation is that we have condensed a large
selection of design idea definitions into the seven categories
in the typology. By offering these relatively broad types, we
may miss subtle, but important distinctions between
different pre-existing definitions of design ideas. Also, we
have located most literary works in one category, while
some span across two or more categories. Here, we have
sought to balance comprehensiveness, overview, and
explanatory power. We consider the typology adequate, but
since it is a first attempt at a structured overview of design
ideas, it is not necessarily exhaustive. We have sought to
make the selection and categorization process clear, so that
others may challenge it and for instance argue for
alternative categorizations.
The typology in its current form is not intended as a directly
applicable framework in design practice. However, it may
still be of use for designers, who seek a better
understanding of how and why design concepts emerge and
evolve, and who wish to better steer a design process by
understanding when it is pertinent to strive for certain types
of design ideas. It may also help idea development by
giving specific definitions by which to communicate and
evaluate ideas. A characterization of idea concepts could
moreover aid idea management. In line with this, the next
step in our work will be to explore how the framework can
be operationalized to support design practice.
The typology opens up for studies of how different idea
types are distributed. [28], among others, point to the
problem that we lack quality measures of design processes.
When evaluating the creative aspects of design processes,
many evaluations tend to focus on the number of ideas
generated, ignoring what most designers are interested in: a
few really great solutions. Documenting the different types
of ideas that emerge during a design process might help us
better understand their interrelations, and identify patterns
in how certain ideas evolve and lead to successful
outcomes. The typology could thus be used to characterize
different types of design processes, and indicate which
types of ideation or further concept development initiatives
might be preferable in a given design process.
On the basis of a wide range of existing research
contributions, our typology of ideas is meant to serve as an
overview and analytical frame for studying design ideas.
The literature review has presented us with several insights.
The most striking one is that the definitions of what
constitutes a design idea are diverse, ranging from
relatively open opportunities over ways of reframing the
design problem to more specific plans for how to proceed
with the design process. Our literature survey was initially
motivated by the lack of a common definition, and this has
been confirmed. This diversity indicates that there is indeed
a need in the research community for clarifying what is
meant by a “design idea”.
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Session: Sense Making for Creativity
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83. Ian Tseng, Jarrod Moss, Jonathan Cagan, and Kenneth
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Session: Sense Making for Creativity
C&C 2017, June 27–30, 2017, Singapore
84. Remko van der Lugt. 2001. Sketching in design idea
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Session: Sense Making for Creativity
C&C 2017, June 27–30, 2017, Singapore
... Designers can be divided into software designers, who design interfaces, features, and processes, and hardware designers, who create products, structures, and engineering environments. Software designers must be more creative since the cost of a design application is lower than a product, and they face fewer limitations [63]. Therefore, the research concentrates more on the improvement of creativity with tools. ...
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Idea management is a crucial pillar of corporate management. Organizations may save research expenses, influence future development, and maintain distinctive competency by controlling front-end ideas. To date, several idea management tools have been developed. However, it is unknown to what extent they support the idea management process. Therefore, this scoping review aims to understand the classification of idea management tools and their effectiveness through an overview of the academic literature. Electronic databases (Scopus, ACM Digital Library, Web of Science Core Index, Elsevier ScienceDirect, and SpringerLink) were searched, and a total of 38 journal papers (n = 38) from 2010 to 2020 were retrieved. We identified 30 different types of idea management tools categorized as digital tools (n = 21), guidelines (n = 5), and frameworks (n = 4), and these tools have been utilized by software designers, hardware designers, and stakeholders. The identified tools may support various stages of idea management, such as capturing, generating, implementing, monitoring, refinement, retrieving, selection, and sharing. However, most tools only support a single stage (either capture or generate), and they cannot track the life cycle of the ideas, which may lead to misunderstanding. Therefore, it is essential to develop tools for managing ideas that would allow end users, designers, and other stakeholders to minimize bias in selecting and prioritizing ideas.
... Types and definitions of creative ideas. Inie and Dalsgaard [23] identify seven definitions of design ideas as they have been described in previous research. The types are '(Re)framing the problem', 'Opportunity', 'Suggestion for part solution', 'Suggestion for solution', 'Design move', 'Insight moment', and 'Plan for action'. ...
... Two broad areas that emerged were the classification of suggestions and ideas from design partners during the design sessions, and the social collaborative processes that occurred during the sessions. This dichotomy between output ideas and the generative process echoes how other design research projects can be categorized [28]. To classify suggestions and ideas from design partners in our transcripts, we first labeled all contributions to the discussion as "idea suggestion" without evaluating the creativity of the idea. ...
Conference Paper
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Leveraging social media as a domain of high relevance in the lives of most young adolescents, we led a synchronous virtual design workshop with 17 ethnically diverse, and geographically-dispersed middle school girls (aged 11-14) to co-create novel ICT experiences. Our participatory workshop centered on social media innovation, collaboration, and computational design. We present the culminating design ideas of novel online social spaces, focused on positive experiences for adolescent girls, produced in small-groups, and a thematic analysis of the idea generation and collaboration processes. We reflect on the strengths of utilizing social media as a domain for computing exploration with diverse adolescent girls, the role of facilitators in a synchronous virtual design workshop, and the technical infrastructure that can enable age-appropriate scaffolding for active participation and use of participatory design principles embedded within educational workshops with this population.
... Multiple, compatible design ideas form a 'design concept': an integrated solution concept that could be turned into a viable prototype. A number of definitions for 'design idea' co-exist in the Inie and Dalsgaard, 2017). Prototype, prototyping During prototyping, the design team turns design concepts into tangible products (prototypes) that get tested and evaluated by users in an experimental setting. ...
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CONTEXT Innovation based on information and communication technology (ICT) plays an increasingly important role in agricultural research-for-development efforts. It has been recognized, however, that the weak adoption and low impact of many ICT-for-agriculture (ICT4Ag) efforts are partly due to poor design. Often, design was driven more by technological feasibility than by a thorough analysis of the target group's needs and capacities. For more user-centered ICT4Ag development, there is now growing interest in the use of systematic, participatory design methodologies. OBJECTIVE Numerous methodologies for participatory design exist, but applying any of them in smallholder farming context can create specific challenges that digital development researchers need to deal with. This article aims to support future digital development efforts by contributing practical insights to recent discussions on the use of participatory design methodologies for ICT4Ag development. METHODS We present lessons learned from practical experiences within participatory design projects that developed ICT4Ag solutions in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Based on these experiences and supported by literature, we describe common challenges and limitations that digital designers may face in practice, and discuss possible opportunities for dealing with them. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS The outcomes of digital design projects within research-for-development efforts can be affected by tensions between design ideals and project realities. These tensions may relate to, among others, mismatching expectations among project stakeholders, top-down hierarchies at design partners, insufficient attention to the wider digital ecosystem, and disincentives to re-use ideas and software. Depending on project context, these challenges may need to be addressed by researchers during planning and implementation of digital design projects. SIGNIFICANCE The insights in this article may support agricultural development researchers in facilitating more effective participatory design processes. Even though good design is not the only precondition for a successful ICT4Ag service, this can help create more meaningful digital innovation for agricultural development.
... Commonly used in creative fields such as design or fashion, they "stimulate the perception and interpretation of more ephemeral phenomena such as color, texture, form, image and status" [26]. Designers often collaborate in the design of physical mood boards, where the act of finding, choosing and curating visual material not only helps designers express ideas they already have, but also inspires new ideas based on their reactions to the images that emerge [36]. Mood boards let designers explore hard-to-express ideas [13], and offer the potential for innovative discovery [26]. ...
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Professional designers create mood boards to explore, visualize, and communicate hard-to-express ideas. We present ImageCascade, an intelligent, collaborative ideation tool that combines individual and shared work spaces, as well as collaboration with multiple forms of intelligent agents. In the collection phase, ImageCascade offers fluid transitions between serendipitous discovery of curated images via ImageCascade, combined text- and image-based Semantic search, and intelligent AI suggestions for finding new images. For later composition and reflection, ImageCascade provides semantic labels, generated color palettes, and multiple tag clouds to help communicate the intent of the mood board. A study of nine professional designers revealed nuances in designers' preferences for designer-led, system-led, and mixed-initiative approaches that evolve throughout the design process. We discuss the challenges in creating effective human-computer partnerships for creative activities, and suggest directions for future research.
... What is characteristic about a design idea (in relation to the creativity research-understanding of an idea) is that the design idea is oriented towards moving a design process forward. A design idea can be directed towards framing or reframing the problem statement, discovering an opportunity to work with, suggesting a full solution for the design problem, or part of a solution for the design problem (Inie and Dalsgaard 2017a). Design ideas are essential in practicing creative design. ...
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This article presents a grounded theory analysis based on a qualitative study of professional interaction designers ( n = 20) with a focus on how they use tools to manage design ideas. Idea management can be understood as a subcategory of the field personal information management, which includes the activities around the capture, organization, retrieval, and use of information. Idea management pertains to the management and use of ideas , a particular type of information, as part of creative activities. The article identifies tool-supported idea management strategies and needs of professional interaction designers, and discusses the context and consequences of these strategies. Based on our analysis, we identify a conceptual framework of 10 strategies which are supported by tools: saving, externalizing, advancing, exploring, archiving, clustering, extracting, browsing, verifying, and collaborating . Finally, we discuss how this framework can be used to characterize and analyze existing and novel idea management tools.
Previous user experience research emphasizes meaning in interaction design beyond conventional interactive gestures. However, existing exemplars that successfully reify abstract meanings through interactions are usually case-specific, and it is currently unclear how to systematically create or extend meanings for general gesture-based interactions. We present Metaphoraction, a creativity support tool that formulates design ideas for gesture-based interactions to show metaphorical meanings with four interconnected components: gesture , action , object , and meaning . To represent the interaction design ideas with these four components, Metaphoraction links interactive gestures to actions based on the similarity of appearances, movements, and experiences; relates actions to objects by applying the immediate association; bridges objects and meanings by leveraging the metaphor TARGET-SOURCE mappings. We build a dataset containing 588,770 unique design idea candidates through surveying related research and conducting two crowdsourced studies to support meaningful gesture-based interaction design ideation. Five design experts validate that Metaphoraction can effectively support creativity and productivity during the ideation process. The paper concludes by presenting insights into meaningful gesture-based interaction design and discussing potential future uses of the tool.
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Creativity training has been widely integrated into engineering education as a means to prepare students to be an innovative force in design industry. However, much of this research has focused on training students to be creative idea generators, with limited attention to what happens after this generation. Thus, the current study was developed to understand how creative ideas are promoted or filtered throughout the design process in order to focus our educational efforts. In order to accomplish this, an 8-week study with 136 engineering students was conducted. Our results point to the reduction in creativity throughout the design process and student abandonment of novel concepts. We also expose the influence of the design task on student creativity.
Conference Paper
This paper describes a process called RAId (Rapid Analysis of design Ideas), which assists, in the ethical and inclusive analysis of large sets of design data. It is described against an activity with 120 teenagers working in small groups contributing ideas for the design of an interactive water-drinking bottle. Four investigators systematically examined fifty designs from the teenagers using six different lenses -- two concerned with the purpose of the designed technology (hydration and re-use), two with its desirability (aesthetics and cool) and two with the product concept (business and innovation). The investigators used these lenses to focus their examination. Each proposed a candidate solution based on what they had seen from the teen designs. The resulting concepts are examined against the teenagers' ideas that inspired them with attention being paid to when, and how often, ideas were put in mind. This analysis revealed three different idea types, core, add-ons and novel, each of which needed different treatment to bring it to fruition.
The paper explores the question why a design process ends up with a particular result. We analyze a collaborative design process where different stakeholders design an urban site using a participatory design tool. Our analysis is based on Schön’s view of design as a process of ‘seeing-moving-seeing’ combined with the concept of choice from Schütz. Analyzing the case provides an understanding of the ways in which ideas ‘move’ a design. We describe the dynamics of collaborative design work where design ideas are moved forward or deliberately blocked from being pursued further. We point to how design decisions are interlinked, making it possible to see how some design decisions are more important than others. Our analysis is narrative in character, but we also present a technique for visualizing the ‘life and death’ of design ideas.
In this study, we investigated how questions influence problem (re)framing and idea shaping in design discourse. We analysed the question-asking behaviour of a multidisciplinary group of students who were tasked with designing new birthday celebration concepts. We focused on the sessions that took place during the idea generation phase of the project. Our analysis showed that high-level questions facilitated the emergence of inflection moments during idea generation. It also illustrated that, prior to the inflection moments, reflection built the basis on which high-level questions were formulated. We interpreted that type of reflection as resistance to design fixation. Based on our findings, we proposed a model of how design inquiry facilitates inflection moments during idea generation and counteracts design fixation.
Conference Paper
Emerging online ideation platforms with thousands of example ideas provide an important resource for creative production. But how can ideators best use these examples to create new innovations? Recent work has suggested that not just the choice of examples, but also the timing of their delivery can impact creative outcomes. Building on existing cognitive theories of creative insight, we hypothesize that people are likely to benefit from examples when they run out of ideas. We explore two example delivery mechanisms that test this hypothesis: 1) a system that proactively provides examples when a user appears to have run out of ideas, and 2) a system that provides examples when a user explicitly requests them. Our online experiment (N=97) compared these two mechanisms against two baselines: providing no examples and automatically showing examples at a regular interval. Participants who requested examples themselves generated ideas that were rated the most novel by external evaluators. Participants who received ideas automatically when they appeared to be stuck produced the most ideas. Importantly, participants who received examples at a regular interval generated fewer ideas than participants who received no examples, suggesting that mere access to examples is not sufficient for creative inspiration. These results emphasize the importance of the timing of example delivery. Insights from this study can inform the design of collective ideation support systems that help people generate many high quality ideas.
This paper presents evidence for shared insight moments in real world design processes in the context of product development for a large international medical appliance manufacturer. The findings are discussed related to the existing literature of insights in creative processes and regarding possible explanations from analoguous fields of interest, like brainstorming and multiple discovery.
Creativity is regarded as a core ingredient of innovation as it enhances the possibility of generating superior products. The core components of creativity are 'novelty' and 'usefulness' and a direct measure of creativity should be in terms of measuring these components. This paper proposes a method for assessing creativity of technical products. Empirical studies have been conducted to validate this method. First this paper reviews existing methods for measuring 'novelty' of technical products, proposes a new method for measuring novelty, and evaluates the proposed method and the existing measures by benchmarking them against the intuitive notion of creativity of experienced designers. Next, it reviews existing literature on 'usefulness', proposes a method for assessing usefulness of technical products, and evaluates this by comparing its outcome with the outcome of the existing methods taking the evaluation by experienced designers as reference. Later, 'creativity' measures for these products are calculated using the values of the novelty and usefulness of the products and benchmarked against the outcomes of intuitive evaluation of creativity of these products by experienced designers.