0
Research Papers

Physical Models and Design Thinking: A Study of Functionality, Novelty and Variety of Ideas

[+] Author and Article Information
Vimal K. Viswanathan

Julie S. Linsey1

Department of Mechanical Engineering,  Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843jlinsey@tamu.edu

1

Corresponding author.

J. Mech. Des 134(9), 091004 (Aug 07, 2012) (13 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4007148 History: Received July 23, 2011; Revised June 30, 2012; Accepted July 13, 2012; Published August 07, 2012; Online August 07, 2012

Engineering idea generation is a crucial part of new product development, and physical modeling is a widely used tool. Despite the physical models’ popularity in the idea generation process, little is known about their effects on design cognition. The existing literature provides contradicting guidelines about their use in the design process. Product design firms call for the frequent use of physical models, but some studies suggest that physical models induce design fixation. The psychological literature indicates that physical representations, by supporting designers’ mental models of physical phenomena, might lead to more feasible designs. The advantages and disadvantages of physical models as idea generation tools need to be clarified to help designers decide when and where to implement them. Based on prior studies and anecdotal evidence, two hypotheses are tested: (1) physical models supplement designer’s mental models and (2) physical models induce design fixation. Two between-subject idea generation experiments with novice designers are conducted to evaluate these hypotheses. In the first pilot experiment, the participants generate ideas in three conditions: sketching only, building, and building and testing. This study is followed by a second experiment, in which a new condition called constrained sketching is added. In each condition, participants use the representation implied by the name of the condition. The percentage of ideas satisfying all design requirements indicates the physical models’ effect on the designers’ mental models. Novelty and variety are used as metrics for design fixation. The percentage of functional ideas quantified shows significant variation across the sketching and building conditions, whereas novelty and variety show no differences. These results support the argument that physical models supplement novice designer’s mental models. No evidence of fixation is observed, which contradicts the results of the prior observational studies. Hypothesized reasons for the apparently contradictory results are also presented.

Copyright © 2012 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Topics: Design , Testing
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.

References

Figures

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1

A set of styrofoam and wood physical models built by NASA during the early phases of designing the next lunar lander [7]

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2

Design problem statement

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 3

Tools and raw material used for building prototypes

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 4

Box plot showing the variation in the medians for the percentage of functional ideas across the experimental conditions

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 5

Sample paper clips that the participants made. These example designs include both functional and nonfunctional ideas.

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 6

Variation of medians of percentage of functional ideas across the activities in Building and Testing condition

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 7

As a measure of sketching and building skill, participants sketched and built these paperclips during the building skill measurement activity

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 8

Mean percentage of functional ideas (error bars are (±) one standard error of the mean)

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 9

Mean number of ideas generated in each condition (error bars are (±) one standard error of the mean)

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 10

Mean percentage of functional ideas does not show any interaction effects between the time at which the participants generated ideas and the experimental conditions

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 11

Mean percentage of functional ideas does not show any interaction effects between the percentage of idea generated by the participants and the experimental conditions

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 12

Percentage of functional ideas showed no significant correlation with participant’s sketching time in the building skill measurement activity

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 13

Percentage of functional ideas showed no correlation with participant’s building time in the building skill measurement activity

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 14

The mean percentage of functional ideas showed a significant difference between the testing while building and follow-up sketching activities in the Building & Testing condition (error bars are (±) one standard error of the mean)

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 15

The mean novelty of ideas showed little difference across the experimental conditions (error bars are (±) one standard error of the mean)

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 16

The mean variety of ideas did not show significant difference across the experimental conditions (error bars are (±) one standard error of the mean)

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 17

Mean maximum novelty per participant did not vary significantly across conditions (error bars are (±) one standard error of the mean)

Tables

Errata

Discussions

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In