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Research Papers

The Meaning of “Near” and “Far”: The Impact of Structuring Design Databases and the Effect of Distance of Analogy on Design Output

[+] Author and Article Information
Katherine Fu, Jonathan Cagan

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Joel Chan, Christian Schunn

Department of Psychology,
University of Pittsburgh,
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Kenneth Kotovsky

Department of Psychology,
Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Kristin Wood

Engineering and Product Development Pillar,
Singapore University of Technical Design,
Singapore 138682, Republic of Singapore

Contributed by the Design Automation Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received May 14, 2012; final manuscript received November 21, 2012; published online January 7, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Bernard Yannou.

J. Mech. Des 135(2), 021007 (Jan 07, 2013) (12 pages) Paper No: MD-12-1259; doi: 10.1115/1.4023158 History: Received May 14, 2012; Revised November 21, 2012

This work lends insight into the meaning and impact of “near” and “far” analogies. A cognitive engineering design study is presented that examines the effect of the distance of analogical design stimuli on design solution generation, and places those findings in context of results from the literature. The work ultimately sheds new light on the impact of analogies in the design process and the significance of their distance from a design problem. In this work, the design repository from which analogical stimuli are chosen is the U.S. patent database, a natural choice, as it is one of the largest and easily accessed catalogued databases of inventions. The “near” and “far” analogical stimuli for this study were chosen based on a structure of patents, created using a combination of latent semantic analysis and a Bayesian based algorithm for discovering structural form, resulting in clusters of patents connected by their relative similarity. The findings of this engineering design study are juxtaposed with the findings of a previous study by the authors in design by analogy, which appear to be contradictory when viewed independently. However, by mapping the analogical stimuli used in the earlier work into similar structures along with the patents used in the current study, a relationship between all of the stimuli and their relative distance from the design problem is discovered. The results confirm that “near” and “far” are relative terms, and depend on the characteristics of the potential stimuli. Further, although the literature has shown that “far” analogical stimuli are more likely to lead to the generation of innovative solutions with novel characteristics, there is such a thing as too far. That is, if the stimuli are too distant, they then can become harmful to the design process. Importantly, as well, the data mapping approach to identify analogies works, and is able to impact the effectiveness of the design process. This work has implications not only in the area of finding inspirational designs to use for design by analogy processes in practice, but also for synthesis, or perhaps even unification, of future studies in the field of design by analogy.

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Figures

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Example high novelty (top) and low novelty (bottom) concepts

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Fig. 2

Example high quality (top) and low quality (bottom) concepts

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Fig. 3

Effect of distance of analogical stimuli on novelty, previous study, and current study results

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Effect of distance of analogical stimuli on quality, previous study, and current study results

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Participant judgment of relevance of analogical stimuli to design problem

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Original structure of 45 random patents used to choose stimuli sets in the current study

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Fig. 7

Original structure of 45 random patents with 8 patents from previous work

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Original structure of 45 random patents with 8 patents from previous study and 100 additional random patents

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