Research Papers: Design Theory and Methodology

When Are Designers Willing to Take Risks? How Concept Creativity and Prototype Fidelity Influence Perceived Risk

[+] Author and Article Information
Elizabeth M. Starkey

School of Engineering Design,
Technology and Professional Programs,
The Pennsylvania State University,
213 Hammond Building,
University Park, PA 16802
e-mail: ems413@psu.edu

Jessica Menold

School of Engineering Design,
Technology and Professional Programs,
The Pennsylvania State University,
213 Hammond Building,
University Park, PA 16802
e-mail: jdm5407@psu.edu

Scarlett R. Miller

School of Engineering Design,
Technology and Professional Programs and the
Department of Industrial and
Manufacturing Engineering,
The Pennsylvania State University,
213 Hammond Building,
University Park, PA 16802
e-mail: shm13@psu.edu

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received June 30, 2018; final manuscript received December 10, 2018; published online January 11, 2019. Assoc. Editor: Tahira Reid.

J. Mech. Des 141(3), 031104 (Jan 11, 2019) (9 pages) Paper No: MD-18-1520; doi: 10.1115/1.4042339 History: Received June 30, 2018; Revised December 10, 2018

Building prototypes is an important part of the concept selection phase of the design process, where fuzzy ideas get represented to support communication and decision making. However, the previous studies have shown that prototypes generate different levels of user feedback based on their fidelity and esthetics. Furthermore, prior research on concept selection has shown that individual risk attitude effects how individuals select ideas, as creative ideas are perceived to be riskier in comparison to less creative ideas. While the role of risk has been investigated in concept selection, there is lack of research on how risk is related to the selection of prototypes at various levels of fidelity. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of prototype fidelity, concept creativity, and risk aversion on perceived riskiness and concept selection through a between-subjects study with 72 engineering students. The results revealed that there was a “goldilocks” effect in which students choose concepts with “just the right amount” of novelty, not too much and not too little, as long as quality was adequate. In addition, the prototype fidelity of a concept had an interaction with uniqueness, indicating that unique concepts are more likely to be perceived as less risky if presented at higher levels of fidelity.

Copyright © 2019 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Fox, J. , 2016, “ The Big Spenders on R&D,” accessed Sept. 2, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-04-29/amazon-and-facebook-are-big-spenders-on-r-d.
Cooper, R. G. , 2001, Winning at New Products: Accelerating the Process From Idea to Launch, Perseus Books, New York.
Cooper, R. G. , 2008, “ Perspective: The Stage‐Gate® Idea‐to‐Launch Process—Update, What's New, and Nexgen Systems,” J. Prod. Innovation Manage., 25(3), pp. 213–232. [CrossRef]
Kolodner, J. L. , and Wills, L. M. , 1996, “ Powers of Observation in Creative Design,” Des. Stud., 17(4), pp. 385–416. [CrossRef]
Brereton, M. , and McGarry, B. , 2000, “ An Observational Study of How Objects Support Engineering Design Thinking and Communication: Implications for the Design of Tangible Media,” SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, The Hague, The Netherlands, Apr. 1–6, pp. 217–224. https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=332434
Buchenau, M. , and Fulton Suri, J. , 2000, “ Experience Prototyping,” Third conference on Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques, Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 17–19, pp. 424–433.
Yang, M. C. , and Epstein, D. J. , 2005, “ A Study of Prototypes, Design Activity, and Design Outcomes,” Des. Stud., 26(6), pp. 649–669. [CrossRef]
Liu, L. , and Khooshabeh, P. , 2003, “ Paper or Interactive?: A Study of Prototyping Techniques for Ubiquitous Computing Environments,” CHI'03 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Apr. 5–10, pp. 1030–1031. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
Dow, S. P. , Glassco, A. , Kass, J. , Schwarz, M. , and Klemmer, S. R. , 2009, “ The Effect of Parallel Prototyping on Design Performance, Learning, and Self-Efficacy,” Stanford Technical Report.
McCurdy, M. , Connors, C. , Pyrzak, G. , Kanefsky, B. , and Vera, A. H. , 2006, “ Breaking the Fidelity Barrier: An Examination of Our Current Characterization of Prototypes and an Example of a Mixed-Fidelity Success,” SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Montréal, QC, Canada, Apr. 22–27, pp. 1233–1242.
Doke, E. R. , and Swanson, N. , 1995, “ Decision Variables for Selecting Prototyping in Information Systems Development: A Delphi Study of MIS Managers,” Inf. Manage., 29(4), pp. 173–182. [CrossRef]
Viswanathan, V. L. , and Linsey, J. S. , 2012, “ Physical Models and Design Thinking: A Study of Functionality, Novelty, and Variety of Ideas,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 134, p. 091004. [CrossRef]
Walker, M. , Takayama, L. , and Landay, J. A. , 2002, “ High-Fidelity or Low-Fidelity, Paper or Computer? Choosing Attributes When Testing Web Prototypes,” Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, Oct. 4. https://doi-org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1177/154193120204600513
Elsen, C. , Häggman, A. , Honda, T. , and Yang, M. C. , 2012, “ Representation in Early Stage Design: An Analysis of the Influence of Sketching and Prototyping in Design Projects,” ASME Paper No. DETC2012-70248.
Neeley, W. L. , Jr., Lim, K. , Zhu, A. , and Yang, M. C. , 2013, “ Building Fast to Think Faster: Exploiting Rapid Prototyping to Accelerate Ideation During Early Stage Design,” ASME Paper No. DETC2013-12635.
Dow, S. P. , Glassco, A. , Kass, J. , Schwarz, M. , Schwartz, D. L. , and Klemmer, S. R. , 2010, “ Parallel Prototyping Leads to Better Design Results, more Divergence, and Increased Self-Efficacy,” ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. (TOCHI), 17(4), p. 18. [CrossRef]
Bailey, B. , 2010, “ Paper Prototypes Work as Well as Software Prototypes,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Washington, DC, accessed Jan. 2, 2019, https://www.usability.gov/get-involved/blog/2005/06/paper-prototypes-and-software-prototypes.html
Menold, J. , Simpson, T. W. , and Jablokow, K. W. , 2016, “ The Prototype for X (PFX) Framework: Assessing the Impact of PFX on Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability of End Designs,” ASME Paper No. DETC2016-60225.
Catani, M. B. , and Biers, D. W. , 1998, “ Usability Evaluation and Prototype Fidelity: Users and Usability Professionals,” Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, Oct. 5–9. https://doi-org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1177/154193129804201901
Rudd, J. , Stern, K. , and Isensee, S. , 1996, “ Low vs. High-Fidelity Prototyping Debate,” Interactions, 3(1), pp. 76–85. [CrossRef]
Sauer, J. , Seibel, K. , and Rüttinger, B. , 2010, “ The Influence of User Expertise and Prototype Fidelity in Usability Tests,” Appl. Ergon., 41(1), pp. 130–140. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Ulrich, K. T. , Eppinger, S. D. , and Goyal, A. , 2011, Product Design and Development, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Wall, M. B. , Ulrich, K. T. , and Flowers, W. C. , 1992, “ Evaluating Prototyping Technologies for Product Design,” Res. Eng. Des., 3(3), pp. 163–177. [CrossRef]
Sauer, J. , and Sonderegger, A. , 2009, “ The Influence of Prototype Fidelity and Aesthetics of Design in Usability Tests: Effects on User Behaviour, Subjective Evaluation and Emotion,” Appl. Ergon., 40(4), pp. 670–677. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Christie, E. J. , Jensen, D. D. , Buckley, R. T. , Menefee, D. A. , Ziegler, K. K. , Wood, K. L. , and Crawford, R. H. , 2012, “ Prototyping Strategies: Literature Review and Identification of Critical Variables,” ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, TX, June 10–13.
Virzi, R. A. , Sokolov, J. L. , and Karis, D. , 1996, “ Usability Problem Identification Using Both Low- and High-Fidelity Prototypes,” SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Apr. 13–18, pp. 236–243. https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=238516
Macomber, B. , and Yang, M. , 2011, “ The Role of Sketch Finish and Style in User Responses to Early Stage Design Concepts,” ASME Paper No. DETC2011-48714.
Sternberg, R. , 1999, Handbook of Creativity, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Runco, M. A. , and Jaeger, G. J. , 2012, “ The Standard Definition of Creativity,” Creativity Res. J., 24(1), pp. 92–96. [CrossRef]
Starkey, E. , Toh, C. A. , and Miller, S. R. , 2016, “ Abandoning Creativity: The Evolution of Creative Ideas in Engineering Design Course Projects,” Des. Stud., 47, pp. 47–72. [CrossRef]
Lim, Y.-K. , Pangam, A. , Periyasami, S. , and Aneja, S. , 2006, “ Comparative Analysis of High- and Low-fidelity Prototypes for More Valid Usability Evaluations of Mobile Devices,” Fourth Nordic conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Changing Roles (NordiCHI), Oslo, Norway, Oct. 14–18 https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1182475.1182506.
Lim, Y.-K. , Stolterman, E. , and Tenenberg, J. , 2008, “ The Anatomy of Prototypes: Prototypes as Filters, prototypes as Manifestations of Design Ideas,” ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. (TOCHI), 15(2), p. 7. [CrossRef]
Harris, C. R. , and Jenkins, M. , 2006, “ Gender Differences in Risk Assessment: Why Do Women Take Fewer Risks than Men?,” Judgment Decis. Making, 1(1), pp. 48–63. http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-04381-005
Foster, J. D. , Shenesey, J. W. , and Goff, J. S. , 2009, “ Why Do Narcissists Take More Risks? Testing the Roles of Perceived Risks and Benefits of Risky Behaviors,” Pers. Individ. Differ., 47(8), pp. 885–889. [CrossRef]
Purdy, G. , 2010, “ ISO 31000: 2009—Setting a New Standard for Risk Management,” Risk Anal.: An Int. J., 30(6), pp. 881–886. [CrossRef]
Heath, C. , and Tversky, A. , 1991, “ Preferences and Beliefs: Ambiguity and Competence in Choice Under Uncertainty,” J. Risk Uncertainty, 2, pp. 5–35. [CrossRef]
Sitkin, S. B. , and Pablo, A. L. , 1992, “ Reconceptualizing the Determinants of Risk Behavior,” Acad. Manage. Rev., 17(1), pp. 9–38. [CrossRef]
Dewett, T. , 2007, “ Linking Intrinsic Motivation, Risk Taking, and Employee Creativity in an R&D Environment,” RD Manage., 37(3), pp. 197–208.
Liu, M. , Wen, Y. , and Burns, S. A. , 2004, “ Life Cycle Cost Oriented Seismic Design Optimization of Steel Moment Frame Structures With Risk-Taking Preference,” Eng. Struct., 26(10), pp. 1407–1421. [CrossRef]
Van Bossuyt, D. , Tumer, I. , and Wall, S. , 2012, “ A Case for Trading Risk in Complex Conceptual Design Trade Studies,” Res. Eng. Des., 24(3), pp. 1–17.
Barclift, M. , Simpson, T. W. , Nusiner, M. A. , and Miller, S. , 2017, “ An Investigation Into the Driving Factors of Creativity in Design for Additive Manufacturing,” ASME Paper No. DETC2017-68395.
Khurana, A. , and Rosenthal, S. R. , 1997, “ Integrating the Fuzzy Front End of New Product Development,” IEEE Eng. Manage. Rev., 25(4), pp. 35–49.
Jensen, M. B. , Elverum, C. W. , and Steinert, M. , 2017, “ Eliciting Unknown Unknowns With Prototypes: Introducing Prototrials and Prototrial-Driven Cultures,” Des. Stud., 49, pp. 1–31. [CrossRef]
Toh, C. A. , and Miller, S. R. , 2016, “ Choosing Creativity: The Role of Individual Risk and Ambiguity Aversion on Creative Concept Selection in Engineering Design,” Res. Eng. Des., 27(3), pp. 195–219. [CrossRef]
Rietzchel, E. F. , Nijstad, B. A. , and Stroebe, W. , 2006, “ Productivity is Not Enough: a Comparison of Interactive and Nominal Groups in Idea Generation and Selection,” J. Exp. Soc. Psychol., 42(2), pp. 244–251. [CrossRef]
Mueller, J. S. , Melwani, S. , and Goncalo, J. A. , 2011, “ The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire but Reject Creative Ideas,” Psychol. Sci., 20(10), pp. 1–5.
Greenberg, M. D. , Pardo, B. , Hariharan, K. , and Gerber, E. , 2013, “ Crowdfunding Support Tools: Predicting Success & Failure,” CHI'13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Paris, France, Apr. 27–May 2.
Dawis, R. V. , 1987, “ Scale Construction,” J. Couns. Psychol., 34(4), p. 481. [CrossRef]
Weng, L.-J. , 2004, “ Impact of the Number of Response Categories and Anchor Labels on Coefficient Alpha and Test-retest Reliability,” Educ. Psychol. Meas., 64(6), pp. 956–972. [CrossRef]
Starkey, E. M. , McKay, A. S. , Hunter, S. T. , and Miller, S. R. , 2016, “ Dissecting Creativity: How Dissection Virtuality, Analogical Distance, And Product Complexity Impact Creativity and Self-Efficacy,” Seventh International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition. Evanston, IL, June 27–29, p. 10.
Amabile, T. , 1996, Creativity in Context, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.
Keil, M. , Wallace, L. , Turk, D. , Dixon-Randall, G. , and Nulden, U. , 2000, “ An Investigation of Risk Perception and Risk Propensity on the Decision to Continue a Software Development Project,” J. Syst. Software, 53(2), pp. 145–157. [CrossRef]
Besemer, S. P. , 1998, “ Creative Product Analysis Matrix: Testing the Model Structure and a Comparison Among Products–Three Novel Chairs,” Creativity Res. J., 11(4), pp. 333–346. [CrossRef]
Besemer, S. P. , and O'Quin, K. , 1999, “ Confirming the Three-Factor Creative Product Analysis Matrix Model in an American Sample,” Creativity Res. J., 12(4), pp. 287–296. [CrossRef]
Han, S. D. , Boyle, P. A. , Arfanakis, K. , Fleischman, D. A. , Yu, L. , Edmonds, E. C. , and Bennett, D. A. , 2012, “ Neural Intrinsic Connectivity Networks Associated With Risk Aversion in Old Age,” Behav. Brain Res., 227(1), pp. 233–240. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Toh, C. A. , and Miller, S. R. , 2016, “ The Preferences for Creativity Scale (PCS): Identifying the Underlying Constructs of Creative Concept Selection,” ASME Paper No. DETC2016-60414.


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Likelihood to move forward scores by low, medium, and high levels of usefulness and uniqueness

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Perceived riskiness scores by low, medium, and high uniqueness for low, medium, and high fidelity



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