Research Papers

The Impact of Example Modality and Physical Interactions on Design Creativity

[+] Author and Article Information
Christine A. Toh

Department of Industrial and
Manufacturing Engineering,
The Pennsylvania State University,
State College, PA 16802
e-mail: christinetoh@psu.edu

Scarlett R. Miller

School of Engineering Design,
Technology and Professional Programs,
The Pennsylvania State University,
State College, PA 16802
e-mail: scarlettmiller@psu.edu

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received November 15, 2013; final manuscript received May 5, 2014; published online June 11, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Jonathan Cagan.

J. Mech. Des 136(9), 091004 (Jun 11, 2014) (8 pages) Paper No: MD-13-1528; doi: 10.1115/1.4027639 History: Received November 15, 2013; Revised May 05, 2014

Interacting with example products is an essential and widely practiced method in engineering design, yet little information exists on how the representation (pictorial or physical) or interaction a designer has with an example impacts design creativity. This is problematic because without this knowledge we do not understand how examples affect idea generation or how we can effectively modify or develop design methods to support example usage practices. In this paper, we report the results of a controlled study with first year engineering design students (N = 89) developed to investigate the impact of a designer's interaction with either a two-dimensional (2D) pictorial image or a three-dimensional (3D) product (through visual inspection or product dissection activities) and the resulting functional focus and creativity of the ideas developed. The results of this study reveal that participants who interacted with the physical example produced ideas that were less novel and less functionally focused than those who interacted with the 2D representation. Additionally, the results showed that participants who dissected the product produced a higher variety of ideas than those that visually inspected it. These results contribute to our understanding of the benefits and role of 2D and 3D designer-product interactions during idea development. We use these findings to develop recommendations for the use of designer-product interactions throughout the design process.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

(Left) Example milk frother used in the study. (Right) Written description of the milk frother's ease of use in the visual inspection condition (participant 51).

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Fig. 4

Quality scores assessed using the 4-point scale

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Fig. 3

Example brainstorming sketch by participant 48

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Fig. 2

A dissected milk frother (top), and a section of the bill of materials of the milk frother (bottom) completed by participant 67 in the product dissection condition

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Fig. 6

Means and standard deviations of form-based novelty and functional focus scores of participants in the visual inspection and product dissection conditions

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Fig. 5

Means and standard deviations of functional novelty, form-based novelty, and # of frothing methods of participants that were exposed to 2D and 3D examples



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