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Using the digital context to overcome design fixation: A strategy to expand students' design thinking

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Design fixation has been described as a lack of flexibility in relation to a limited set of design ideas. This study empirically sought to use different strategies to overcome various forms of design fixation. As strategic approaches to negating design fixation, a digital world that has no physical limitations was selected as a thinking expansion motif and an abstract task was given as a design problem. It was anticipated that combining limitlessness of the digital world with an abstract design task would break design fixation, leading to a creative design process. The results supported the usefulness of the adopted strategies. The combination of the digital context and the design task overcame participants’ design fixation and encouraged the creative design process by generating thinking expansion. Further, combining ‘Team Based Learning’ and an ‘abstract design task in a digital context’ led to natural brainstorming and problem solving that exhibited co-evolution. In conclusion, the digital context is one of promising strategies that could be used as a thinking motif to expand students’ design thinking and promote ‘creativity’ in education.
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Han Hee Choi, Mi Jeong Kim
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Archnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research
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USING THE DIGITAL CONTEXT TO OVERCOME DESIGN FIXATION:
A STRATEGY TO EXPAND STUDENTSDESIGN THINKING
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.26687/archnet-ijar.v12i1.1290
Han Hee Choi, Mi Jeong Kim*
Keywords
Abstract
design fixation; design
thinking; digital context;
design education; design
strategy.
Design fixation has been described as a lack of flexibility in
relation to a limited set of design ideas. This study empirically
sought to use different strategies to overcome various forms
of design fixation. As strategic approaches to negating design
fixation, a digital world that has no physical limitations was
selected as a thinking expansion motif and an abstract task
was given as a design problem. It was anticipated that
combining limitlessness of the digital world with an abstract
design task would break design fixation, leading to a creative
design process. The results supported the usefulness of the
adopted strategies. The combination of the digital context
and the design task overcame participants’ design fixation
and encouraged the creative design process by generating
thinking expansion. Further, combining ‘Team Based
Learning’ and an ‘abstract design task in a digital context’ led
to natural brainstorming and problem solving that exhibited
co-evolution. In conclusion, the digital context is one of
promising strategies that could be used as a thinking motif to
expand studentsdesign thinking and promote ‘creativity’ in
education.
Han Hee Choi, Researcher
Kyung Hee University, Department of Housing and Interior Design, The Republic of Korea
Mi Jeong Kim, Associate Professor
Kyung Hee University, Department of Housing and Interior Design, The Republic of Korea
*Corresponding Author’s email address: mijeongkim@khu.ac.kr
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International Journal of Architectural Research
Han Hee Choi, Mi Jeong Kim
Archnet-IJAR, Volume 12 - Issue 1 - March 2018 - (228-240) Regular Section
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229
INTRODUCTION
Know-how and flexibility accumulated from extensive experience are indigenous
competences in humans. Recently, artificial intelligence (AI) systems have begun to use
large data to absorb humans’ know-how and flexibility and, consequently, begun to replace
humans in many domains. Although the world transforms to a digital world emphasising AI
everywhere, ‘creativity’ continues to have great significance in design as the ultimate
indigenous thinking realm of human beings. Before this research, several design
experiments were conducted in which abstract tasks were used as a strategy to enhance the
creativity of student participants. It was found that while abstract tasks encouraged
participants to engage in inferential thinking (e.g., using metaphors and analogies) several
forms of design fixation (e.g., memory and conceptual fixation, and knowledge and functional
fixation) still occurred. Design fixation occurred from the problem analysis phase to the
ideation phase of the design process, and was found to hinder thinking expansion and have
negative effect on participants’ creative output. This study was designed to provide students
with strategic approaches to overcome design fixation. Students have acquired know-how
through their education and experiences. The usefulness of the established strategies would
be analysed by observing changes in students over a long period of time. Specifically, a
design studio (programmed as a design experiment) was taught for one term (i.e., over a
period of 16 weeks) at a university.
Numerous limitations (i.e., construction, material, spatial scale, human scale and reliance on
known information or knowledge) exist when a physical space is designed. However, a digital
world has no such physical limitations and thus was selected as a thinking expansion motif to
surmount design fixation and encourage participants to be imaginative. It was anticipated
that combining limitlessness (e.g., zero gravity, nought objects, no time and nil scale) with an
abstract design task would eliminate design fixation, leading to the creative design process.
Further, it was anticipated that understanding the digital context from a cognitive perspective
and using a digital world in the design of a space would provide participants with an
opportunity to engage in unlimited thinking expansion.
The entire process was built on Team Based Learning (TBL). ‘Solving an abstract design
task in a digital context’ was a new attempt to students who had not experienced it before. It
was anticipated that forcibly combining TBL and an ‘abstract design task in the digital
context’ would lead to natural brainstorming, the most substantial strategy in any problem-
solving process. Further, ‘creative’ is often taken as a qualification of a final outcome, but
cognitive psychology associates it with certain processes that have the potential to produce
‘creative’ outputs in designing (Gero, 1992; Visser, 2004). It was anticipated that during this
process, co-evolution (a significant feature of any creative design process) would be naturally
induced. It was hypothesised that:
Hypothesis 1. The combination of a ‘digital world’ and an ‘abstract design task’ would
expand student participants’ thinking and thus overcome design fixation.
Hypothesis 2. The combination of TBL and an ‘abstract design task in the digital context’
would lead to natural brainstorming and problem solving would exhibit co-evolution.
RELATED WORKS
Many design researchers and educators have tried to establish effective design curricula and
education strategies in architecture education (Gaber, 2014; Salama, 2009; Salingaros & II,
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230
2007). Gaber (2014) described the specific contexts for the design-build curriculum, the
processes of the implementation and the agency of making both for the students and
instructors. Salama and El-Attar (2010) paid attention to the educational value of the jury
system which lies in enabling students to acquire effective knowledge of solving architectural
problems while offering them sufficient framework of guidance. Masdeu and Fuses (2017)
reconceptualised the design studio in architectural education because the design studio has
played a key role in the training of architects and needs to be adapted to the current
situation. Above all, this research is mainly interested in the design fixation occurred in
design studios because students are exposed to cases of designs in similar settings for
studio courses, leading them to produce often routine designs.
Herzberger (1991) stated that everything that is registered in our mind adds to the collection
of ideas stored in the memory, where we can consult whenever a problem arises. According
to his argument, the more we experience, the more points of reference we will have,
consequently these processes are quite useful and adaptive. The unconscious cognitive
system rapidly responds to situations in relation to highly practiced activities such as reading
and driving, and provides the means for cognitive offloading of highly repetitive responses.
However, the use of examples can also negatively impact the design process, and potentially
cause limiting fixations in relation to existing examples (Jansson & Smith, 1991). The
information that designers hold in their minds could potentially cause designers to fixate on
precedents during the design process (Toh, Miller, & Kremer, 2012).
Design fixation has been described as the inability to solve design problems or a lack of
flexibility in relation to a limited set of ideas in a design process (Toh et al., 2012). Individuals
with design fixation often use familiar methods and self-imposing constraints (Youmans,
2007). Moreno et al. (2015) argued that a number of factors can contribute to fixation,
including a designer’s expertise or unfamiliarity with the principles of a discipline, personality
type and conformity due to the proficiency of the methods and supporting technologies of an
existing solution (Cross, 2004; Linsey et al., 2010; Purcell & S.Gero, 1991)
Jansson and Smith (1991) were the first to empirically study design fixation effects in design.
They found that showing designers a picture of a potential design solution at the idea
generation phase of the design process resulted in design fixation, as the picture created a
cognitive block, reducing access to other solutions. Further, they found that both novice and
expert designers who were shown pictorial examples reused more features from those
examples than those not shown such examples. A number of follow-up studies reported
similar results in relation to the fixation effects that occurred when participants were shown
examples during the design process (Chrysikou & Weisberg, 2005; Linsey et al., 2010; Smith
& Linsey, 2011).
Purcell and Gero (1991) reviewed the results of recent experiments addressing the fixation
issues in design problem solving with a focus on what implications they have for design
education. They suggested that a designer’s susceptibility to fixation depends on the
discipline of the designer and contended that design fixation is more likely if the example
problem contains principles in line with the designer’s knowledge base of that discipline.
They found that traditional teaching approaches that largely use precedent designs raise
important questions about the effects of traditional design education on students’ innovative
capabilities. Thus, methods need to be developed that reduce fixation effects.
International Journal of Architectural Research
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Researchers have sought to break or negate the fixating effects of precedents in designing
(Christensen & Schunn, 2007; Jansson & Smith, 1991; Linsey et al., 2010). Encouraging
designers to find new ways to frame problems may lead to mitigating design fixation (Linsey
et al., 2010). Problem framing is the most important process for understanding the nature of
any design problem. The initial definitions of problems may be associated with typical work
contexts that are similar to those in which previous problems have been defined. To avoid
any fixation effect in relation to existing solutions, design problems need to be redefined by
considering fixation effects outside a designer’s typical work situation (Smith & Linsey, 2011).
When working on design tasks, designers must articulate problems, generate design
solutions and employ appropriate strategies in relation to the design activities.
According to Smith and Linsey (2011) incubation effects in problem-solving are essential
cases for creative design in which insightful solutions are frequently realised if an individual
temporarily stops working on a difficult problem. Incubation effects provide unexpected
insights into memory, creative problem solving and brainstorming (Choi & Smith, 2005; Kohn
& Smith, 2009; Vul & Pashler, 2007). In the absence of fixation, problem solutions can be
directly realised. Thus, fixation is a precondition for the observance of incubation effects. By
temporarily putting aside a fixation problem, an individual can consider the problem without
the counterproductive influences of inappropriately applied knowledge. Thus, temporarily
putting aside a fixation problem may be helpful.
RESEARCH METHODS
Subjects
Eighteen third-year university students majoring in a four-year interior design course
participated in a studio class for one term. Prior to their third year, these student participants
had completed basic design practice classes, including classes on computer tools, drawing
and expression techniques, residential space design and special space design.
Class Composition and Procedure
The classes were conducted over 16 weeks and included an introduction designed to enable
participants to understand the digital world. To promote creative and open thinking in
participants, the introductory three-week period included courses on idea stimulation (i.e.,
watching movies and appreciating design cases on the digital world) and lectures on design
theories. Participants were assigned to teams during this period (Table 1).
Table 1: Class Composition and Procedure (Source: Authors).
Introduction
Week 1
Class introduction, team formation and screening movies on the digital world for stimulation
Week 2
Viewing space design cases in which digital technology had been applied
Lectures on design theories
Week 3
Lectures on the design theories, presentations and discussions on the movies viewed by
participants
Task 1 Public Space/ Private Space
Week 4–9
Participants worked in teams of four for six weeks
Task 2 Intermediate Space
Week 1016
Viewing digital related art exhibitions
Participants worked in teams of six for seven weeks
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232
Introduction: Idea Stimulation and Lectures
•Watching movies: This activity was designed to create a sense of teamwork and expand
participants’ ideas in relation to future society and human relations in the digital context.
To avoid fixation effects, we tried to put participants outside a typical world situation and
encouraged them to be imaginative in an unfamiliar context of the digital. Participants
were shown movies such as ‘Her’, ‘Inception’, ‘Minority Report’, ‘Oblivion’, ‘Avatar’ and
‘Elysium’.
•Viewing examples of digital design and art: This activity was designed to expand
participants’ understanding of current digital technologies and stimulate participants’ broad
ideas of contemporary people. Participants were shown space design cases that used
digital and design prototype cases that include digital art works prior to the first task. They
were also required to view digital related art exhibitions and sketch gallery scenes to
stimulate imagination prior to the second task.
•Lectures on Design Theories: Our previous design research has shown that to encourage
students to think divergently, students need to learn about the concept of design thinking,
the thinking process, inferential thinking methods, etc. Thus, lectures on design theories
were given to students during the class, and students were consecutively taught a number
of design theories by a lecturer even when they worked on design tasks.
Design Task 1: Public Space and Private Space
•Intention: Participants’ first task was to learn how to grasp their adaptability in relation to a
given problem. Students were given a design task that had an open theme (i.e., public
space and private space) and did not reveal a specific character (i.e., the task was not a
residential or commercial design). It was six-week task.
•Team Formation: To minimise the deviation level among teams, the 18 student
participants were divided into four teams based on their grades in design studio classes
and their professors’ evaluations of their work: two teams of four and two teams of five.
The first two teams were directed to design a public space and the other two teams were
directed to design a private space in the digital context. There were fortnightly
presentations of the progress and final presentations.
Design Task 2: Intermediate Space
•Intention: The second design task was to design intermediate space design in the digital
context and conducted over a period of seven weeks. Participants’ second task was to
learn how to consider the digital context from a cognitive perspective by compensating for
defects identified in the first task. The teaching plan for the second design task was
amended based on the outcomes of the first task.
•Team Formation: Participants were also to form teams to minimise the burden of
performing a challenging task. Six teams were formed: two teams of four, two teams of
three and two teams of two. Students used every possible method (i.e., sketching, writing,
searching the web, using digital planning tools, collaging images and modelling). There
were also fortnightly presentations of the progress and final presentations.
A FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYSIS
The design process was divided into four phases: Problem Analysis, Inspiration, Ideation and
Implementation (Table 2). The four phrases were derived from Howard et al (2008). Our
intention was to measure how much time students spent in each phase with a focus on co-
evolution while they worked on design tasks, and further to observe their design behaviours
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233
occurring in each phase. Creative design can be modelled in terms of the co-evolution of
problem and solution spaces (Cross & Dorst, 1999). Further, we paid more attention to the
ideation in addition to the problem analysis in the design phases. There was weekly
recording of the process of each team’s project (each team member used a smartphone). In
addition, weekly observation notes were made on each team (a lecturer noted down
students’ behaviours). Customised improvement plans for classes were provided to students
for any problem identified at each class.
Table 2: Design Phase and Observation Focus (Source: Authors).
Phase
Observation Focus
Problem Analysis
(PA)
Problem reframing, problem re-representation, autonomy of subjective expression,
team cooperation, originality of viewpoints and active brainstorming
Inspiration (IN)
Active inferential thinking to solve the abstract task, divergent ideas, fluent
development by using plentiful ideas and brainstorming
Ideation (ID)
Active expressions, including sketching and writing, idea leaps using brainstorming,
reflection, evaluation and feedback on ideas
Implementation (IM)
Brainstorming, evaluation, elaboration and presentation
An analysis framework was developed to analyse participants’ design processes and validate
the usability of the digital context and the abstract task in overcoming design fixation (Table
3). The analysis framework was adopted and extended from the research of Moreno et al.
(2015). Our intention was to identify how students overcome their design fixation during the
design process.
Table 3: A Framework to Analyse Participants’ overcoming Design Fixation (Source: Authors).
Classification
Key Analysis Point
Intrinsic Level
Problem reframing
Reconstituting the problem from various perspectives
Enabling incubation
Reflecting on ideas
Using analogies in relation to the
abstract problem
Inferential thinking to solve the abstract task
Brainstorming
Collaboration, mutual evaluation and free communication
to enable understanding
Extrinsic
Level
Graphical representations
Graphical expressions such as sketching
Using word graphs
Language expressions such as memorandums
Developing functional models
Raising the degree of completion by using modelling that
considers functional elements
In-Ex Level
Brainstorming
Collaboration, mutual evaluation and free communication
to enable understanding
RESULTS
Task 1: Public Space and Private Space in the Digital Context
Students who encountered ‘spatial design in the digital context’ for the first time found the
entire process (from understanding concepts and task analysis to deduction of an output)
difficult (Table 4). Students took almost four of the six weeks to complete the problem
analysis. Due to pressure to finish the task, it seems that they could not perform sufficient
idea deduction and concept actualisation at the inspiration and ideation phases. Further,
when the final output was actualised, students’ involvement at the implementation phase was
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234
insufficient and, consequently, the degree of completion was low. There was also very little
co-evolution throughout the task.
Table 4: Each Team’s Process of ProgressTask 1 (Source: Authors).
Classifi
cation
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Characteristics
Team
A
PA
ID
• Weak IN Phase
• Difficulties of concept actualisation
occurred at the ID Phase
IN
IM
Team
B
PA
PA
ID
A long time spent at the PA Phase
• Weak IN, ID, IM Phases
IN
IN
IM
Team
C
PA
IM
• No IN Phase
• Completed after deducting one idea
ID
Team
D
PA
ID
A long time spend during the PA Phase
• Weak IN and ID Phases
IN
IM
Note: PA: Problem Analysis, IN: Inspiration, ID: Ideation, IM: Implementation
An analysis of design fixation was undertaken using a five-level Likert scale of ‘poor, poor
average, average, excellentaverage, and excellent’ (Table 5). Each factor was analysed
and the level of design fixation was assigned by researchers according to the frequency of
typical design activities. It was found that overcoming design fixation limitations occurred
more at the intrinsic level than the extrinsic level. Students’ comprehension of the digital
world remained based in a technological perspective (i.e., a smart device or the limitlessness
of the digital context in the cognitive aspect) and thus was not used as a thinking motif.
Further, participants were unable to overcome design fixation effects in the current digital
technologies and design implementation conditions of real, physical spaces and experienced
‘blocks’ in their thoughts.
Table 5: Observations of Participants overcoming Levels of Design Fixation (Source: Authors).
Classification
Check Point
T_A
T_B
T_C
T_D
Intrinsic
Level
Problem reframing
PA
P
P
P
Enabling incubation
PA
P
PA
PA
Using analogies in relation to the abstract
problem
PA
PA
PA
A
Extrinsic
Level
Graphical representations
A
P
PA
A
Using word graphs
PA
EA
PA
A
Developing functional models
EA
PA
PA
EA
In-Ex Level
Brainstorming
PA
P
P
PA
Note: P: Poor, PA: PoorAverage, A: Average, EA: ExcellentAverage, E: Excellent
Intrinsic Level
Imagination has no limit. Further, in a non-existent digital space, it can be expanded using zero
gravity, nought objects and no time. It was assumed that defining the public and private space in
the digital context would be possible given the limitlessness of imagination; however, participants
who had learnt under convergent education systems experienced significant difficulties reframing
problems from their own points of view. Further, when performing the task, participants’ agonising
process occurred when they were ‘stuck’ (not when they were incubating ideas) and participants
engaged in very little inferential thinking using digital as a thinking motif. Additionally, a number of
participants asked: ‘Is this possible?’. Thus, it demonstrates that they approached the task with
concerns that there could be technical difficulties rather than a view that the digital context was
cognitively limitless. Participants were also strongly fixated on ‘current digital technology’ and
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235
tended to engage in evaluations of what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, feared expressing their thoughts
and deduced ideas in very passive ways.
Extrinsic Level
Extrinsic behaviours were induced throughout the design process to overcome design
fixation levels and some expressions were congested. Participants used familiar methods
such as sketching, note-taking and computer tools to create graphical representations, but
had difficulties expanding their thoughts that subsequently became interlocked with
expanding expressions. Each team spent four weeks analysing the problems (see Table 4).
Consequently, participants were unable to undertake sufficient reviews of the implementation
of their designs. However, in spite of time constraints and compared to other elements, the
development of functional modelling was conducted smoothly, as participants were familiar
with drafting work and the use of computer tools.
In-Ex level (Brainstorming)
Overall, participants’ brainstorming was extremely passive with a lack of thinking expansion
experience. Team C showed a particular lack of active brainstorming, mutual evaluation and
feedback. Further, one member of Team C dominated the decision-making process,
including idea deduction, concept decision and the expression of the concept. As the teams
were formed based on each participant’s competence, the level of closeness among team
members was very low. Thus, participants experienced difficulties ‘freely communicating their
own thoughts’ on unfamiliar topics. Viewing movies together for three weeks during the
introductory period to ‘break the ice’ did not make participants feel any closer. Further, it took
time for participants educated in individual-centred convergent learning environments to
adapt before they felt comfortable cooperating with their other four or five team members.
They were observed to experience a number of difficulties in cognitive understandings of
digital space (e.g., participants used limitless digital worlds in limited manners). They also
seemed to have difficulties in making unique interpretations of public and private spaces,
including a lack of conceptual understanding about spaces with unexposed characteristics.
The table 6 shows examples of public space by Team A and private space by Team D.
Table 6: Task 1 Design Themes and the Process of Progress (Source: Authors).
Public space Team A: Digital Diet Together
Private Space Team D: My Own Memory Repository
Task 2: Intermediate Space Design in the Digital Context
Participants’ progress improved significantly in the second task compared to the first task;
however, there were differences between the teams (Table 7). Overall, participants
understood the digital context in the cognitive perspective and analysed the problem from
diverse viewpoints as they contemplated the problem and the solution.
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236
Table 7. Each Team’s Process of ProgressTask 2 (Source: Authors).
Classi
ficatio
n
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Characteristics
A
PA
PA
IN
IM
IN
IM
IM
• Active co-evolution
Adapting to the cognitive use of the digital
IN
ID
ID
ID
B
PA
IN
PA
IN
IM
• Co-evolution was observed, PA was
relatively congested
• Difficulties were encountered, as team
members held different opinions
ID
ID
ID
C
PA
PA
IN
PA
PA
ID
• Active co-evolution/focused ideation
• Elaboration was obstructed due to
continuous idea suggestions
IN
ID
IN
IN
IM
D
PA
PA
PA
ID
ID
ID
• Active co-evolution and focused ideation
was observed
•Insufficient output despite the process due
to late decisions being made about concepts
IN
IN
IN
IN
IM
IM
E
PA
ID
ID
• Co-evolution was observed/insufficient IN
Phase
• Completed after the selection of one idea
IN
IM
IM
F
PA
ID
IN
IM
• Insufficient co-evolution/rushed IM attempts
Re-induction to In Phase was needed by a
professor
IN
IM
ID
Note: PA: Problem Analysis, IN: Inspiration, ID: Ideation, IM: Implementation
Members of Teams C and D spent insufficient time refining ideas and actualising concepts,
but did discuss their thoughts without hesitation. Despite variations among teams,
participants oscillated between the problem analysis phase and the inspiration and ideation
phases until weeks two or three. They actualised their ideas by repeating the inspiration and
ideation phases at weeks four and five, but engaged in insufficient implementation at weeks
five and six. Teams A, C and D displayed clear co-evolution during the process. An analysis
of design fixation was also undertaken using a five-level Likert scale of ‘poor, pooraverage,
average, excellentaverage, and excellent as shown in Table 8. Design fixation was similarly
overcome at the intrinsic, extrinsic and in-ex levels. Participants experienced difficulties when
completing the first task, but gained a base to cognitively understand the digital context and
showed design fixation improvement in the second task.
Table 8. Observations of Participants overcoming Levels of Design Fixation (Source: Authors).
Classification
Check points
T_A
T_B
T_C
T_D
T_E
T_F
Intrinsic Level
Problem reframing
EA
A
EA
EA
PA
PA
Enabling Incubation
EA
A
PA
PA
A
PA
Using analogies in relation to the abstract
problem
A
EA
EA
EA
A
PA
Extrinsic
Level
Graphical representations
A
A
EA
EA
PA
PA
Using word graphs
A
A
PA
A
A
A
Developing functional models
EA
EA
A
A
A
A
In-Ex Level
Brainstorming
A
A
E
EA
A
PA
Note: P: Poor, PA: PoorAverage, A: Average, EA: ExcellentAverage, E: Excellent
Intrinsic Level
Teams A, C and D distinctively improved their processes at the intrinsic level, surmounting
the substantive view that spaces should have walls, floors and ceilings. Participants fully
understood the cognitive use of digital motifs, freely generated ideas and engaged in positive
inferential thinking. Notably, Team D had a lower level of completion given their capabilities
compared to the other teams, as they spent too much time in the inspiration and ideation
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phases. Teams B and E performed better in the second task than the first; however, Team E
still experienced difficulties reframing the problem and was often ‘stuck’. Team F showed the
least progress. Team members of Team F struggled to overcome the difficulties that they
had experienced at the intrinsic level, made an impetuous decision on concept and
attempted to produce the final output. The professor also had to constantly encourage
members of Team F to re-analyse the problem.
Extrinsic Level
Teams A, C and D showed significant improvement at the extrinsic level and also displayed
advanced behaviours. Teams C and D produced the final outputs that focused only on
aesthetic points; however, team members did not spend substantial time thinking about
developing functional models despite engaging in large amounts of free sketching and being
interested in inspiration. Unlike the other three teams, the progress of Team B was tedious.
Inferential thinking was observed; however, members of Team B were passive in expressing
and developing their thoughts. Members of Teams E and F were reluctant to express their
thoughts, as they had no self-confidence in their sketching abilities and hesitated even when
producing simple drawings. Team F attempted to complete the final model by using
computing tools at week three; however, members of Team F did not make any sketches or
write any memorandums despite these being common practices in design processes.
In-Ex Level (Brainstorming)
Visiting the museum and allowing participants to freely form teams appeared to effectively
overcome the factors that made brainstorming difficult during the first task (e.g., a lack of
closeness among team members, fear of a new theme and a lack of experience working in
teams). Participants unravelled their thoughts by discussing the exhibitions that they had
viewed while performing the task. Variations existed among teams; however, in relation to
the digital theme, mutual evaluation feedback occurred and was experienced at least once
by each participant. Team B experienced difficulties mediating opinions at the problem
analysis phase. Team B comprised three participants; however, one team member
continuously opposed the ideas of the other two team members. This led to cooperation and
mediation difficulties within the team and the work undertaken was predominantly based on
the concept of the dominant team member. Excluding Team F, every team that experienced
issues during the design process engaged in active brainstorming that significantly helped
overcome design fixation. Table 9 shows design themes and design processes by each team
in task 2.
CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION
This empirical study sought to use different strategies to overcome various forms of design
fixation that act as obstacles in creative thinking and design. The results supported the
usefulness of the adopted strategies. The study was conducted over a 16-week period to
enable changes in participants to be observed. The analysis tool used to measure the extent
to which participants overcame design fixation was adopted from the research of Moreno and
Yang et al. (2015).
Hypothesis 1. The results of the study supported Hypothesis 1; that is, the combination of the
digital context and the design task overcame participants’ design fixation and encouraged the
creative design process by generating thinking expansion. In relation to the first task,
participants encountered difficulties until they cognitively understood the digital concept;
however, the design process of participants did improve in the second task. Setting the
International Journal of Architectural Research
Han Hee Choi, Mi Jeong Kim
Archnet-IJAR, Volume 12 - Issue 1 - March 2018 - (228-240) Regular Section
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238
cognitive characteristics of the digital context as a motif of ideas assisted participants’
thinking expansion. Participants sometimes evaluated their own ideas as being peculiar, but
became more interested in the process and produced a large number of unusual and
ambiguous ideas. Combining the digital context and the abstract task proved to be an
effective strategy. When participants first encountered tasks with themes of public, private
and intermediate spaces, they had significant difficulties in establishing a subjective
perspective and had to ask the professor to provide a standard of interpretation. They noted
that the previous studio class in which they had been enrolled had a clear character and use
of a space (i.e., commercial or residential). However, by week eight (i.e., mid-term),
participants appeared to understand how to combine the abstract task to the digital context
and were able to reframe the problem from their own viewpoints. Variations among
participants existed; however, the most prominent progress occurred in the second task.
Table 9: Task 2 Design Theme and the Process of Progress (Source: Authors).
Team A: ‘A digital funeral parlour’ where life and death and visible and invisible things coexist
Team B: ‘A digital playground’ that connects friends who do not have time to play together
Team C: ‘A digital mental healing space’ for people who refuse to go a hospital due to negative perceptions about mental
illness
Team D: ‘A digital experience bread advertising space’ in which a human and a product are liaised
Team E: ‘A digital library’ that substitute book content with images or videos for people who dislike reading books
Team F: ‘A job experience space’ that allows people to do things digitally that they cannot do in real life
Hypothesis 2. The results partially supported Hypothesis 2; that is, that combining TBL and
an ‘abstract design task in a digital context’ led to natural brainstorming and problem solving
International Journal of Architectural Research
Han Hee Choi, Mi Jeong Kim
Archnet-IJAR, Volume 12 - Issue 1 - March 2018 - (228-240) Regular Section
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239
that exhibited co-evolution. TBL assisted in the resolution of the difficult design task;
however, the fundamental learning environment required improvement. TBL and Project
Based Learning (PBL) are notable creative learning methods. However, the current learning
environment in Korea’s convergent education system has too many restrictions and such
innovative learning methods are not commonly used. Participants who had been educated
from elementary to high school in individual-centred convergent learning environments could
not be naturally induced to engage in brainstorming in either the TBL or PBL environments.
Consequently, different learning processes were required. The professor had to lead
brainstorming activities, teach this technique and constantly observe each team. Allowing
participants to form their own teams with others to whom they felt closer was effective, as it
made participants feel less timid and better able to express their thoughts. Thus, it appears
that enabling individuals to master the discussion and mutual evaluation process by using an
easier theme would be desirable at the beginning of any education programme. By and
large, this research showed the usability of research tasks. Based on these results, the
digital context is one of promising strategies that could be used as a thinking motif to expand
students’ design thinking and promote ‘creativity’ in education.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the
National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017S1A5A2A01023397)
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