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Supporting Idea Generation Through Functional Decomposition: An Alternative Framing For Design Heuristics

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This study explored how guided ideation can support concept initiation and development. We conducted a set of in-class activities in a junior-level industrial design studio at a large Midwestern US university with 20 students. Participants generated concepts individually while working on a previously defined problem. They performed a functional decomposition of existing concepts, then used a self-selected function to rapidly generate ideas in three stages over 45 minutes, supported by Design Heuristics cards. Through analysis of eight cases, we found that generated concepts were consistent with the originally defined function. The students’ ability to create a range of solutions increased over time, and concepts became more divergent through each of the three stages. Use of Design Heuristics changed, beginning as a tool for divergent concept generation (ideation), moving to a more mechanical transformation of existing concepts (iteration), and concluding with a broader, more evaluative synthetic framing (recomposition). Based on these results, we offer implications for the integration of idea generation methods across multiple stages in design and engineering contexts.

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Supporting Idea Generation Through Functional Decomposition: An Alternative Framing For Design Heuristics

  1. 1. Supporting Idea Generation Through Functional Decomposition AN ALTERNATIVE FRAMING FOR 
 DESIGN HEURISTICS Colin M. Gray1, Seda Yilmaz1, Shanna R. Daly2,
 Colleen M. Seifert2, & Richard Gonzalez2 1 IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY 
 2 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
  2. 2. DESIGNERS OFTEN STRUGGLE TO CREATE A LARGE NUMBER AND WIDE RANGE OF CONCEPTS [Ullman, Dietterich, & Stauffer, 1988]
  3. 3. DESIGN METHODS CAN COGNITIVELY SUPPORT DEVELOPING DESIGNERS [Gray, Stolterman, & Siegel, 2014; Jones, 1970; Smith, 1998]
  4. 4. effectively frame 
 a problem [Dorst, 2015; Frisch, 1993; Shalley, 1991; Tversky & Kahneman, 1981] DESIGN METHODS CAN COGNITIVELY SUPPORT DEVELOPING DESIGNERS
  5. 5. encourage setting of productive constraints [Biskjaer & Halskov, 2014; Pahl & Beitz, 2007; Stokes, 2009] DESIGN METHODS CAN COGNITIVELY SUPPORT DEVELOPING DESIGNERS
  6. 6. RESEARCH QUESTIONS 1 What functions did students select through functional decomposition, and what specific function did they choose to focus on? How did the students’ selected focus on function affect their concept generation at each stage (ideation, iteration, recomposition)? 2 How did the students’ use of Design Heuristics affect concept generation at each stage? 3
  7. 7. Selected Function Stage 1: Ideation Stage 2: Iteration Stage 3: Recomposition # of Themes S1 compartments 8 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dividers 5: compartments 1: product with parts 6 TOTAL [DH:4] 2: dividers 1: compartments 2: motion expand/slide 1: attachment 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: compartments 2: attach together 6 S2 space saving 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: hang in fridge 2: store by stacking 2 TOTAL [DH:2) 1: hang in fridge 1: flex cover 1 TOTAL [DH:1] 1: flex cover 3 S3 compactable 8 TOTAL [DH:3] 6: fold/fit inside 1: spin to close 1: cone 6 TOTAL [DH:3) 2: rotate/spin 3: bend/compact 1: cups on both sides 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 2: fold/twist 1: button to power 8 S4 adjustable 8 TOTAL [DH:5] 3: make big/small/tall 1: attach components 1: texture to cue interaction 2: customize compartments 1: colander 8 TOTAL [DH:5) 3: make big/small/tall 1: attach components 1: texture to cue interaction 2: customize compartments 1: colander 3 TOTAL [DH:3] 1: customize by user 1: recyclable 1: adjustable 8 S5 dries food 4 TOTAL [DH:1] 4: drying mechanism 4 TOTAL [DH:2) 3: mechanism altered 1: dry and moisten 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: multipurpose 2: assemble/configure 5 S6 circulation 4 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: vent/component 1: motion 1: human power 2 TOTAL [DH:1] 2: vent/ component 2 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: flatten components 1: toasting 5 S7 hand held 8 TOTAL [DH:2] 5: handles 3: multifunction pan/pot/plate 5 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: handle 4: multifunction pan/pot 5 TOTAL [DH:4] 2: multifunction pot/pan 1: pan topper 1: measuring aid 1: multifunction handle 5 S8 cleaning 6 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dishwasher space 3: reverse/ flexible/popout 1: drain 5 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dishwasher space 3: reverse/ flexible/popout 1: drain 2 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: flexible + dishwasher 1: flexible + nibs 5
  8. 8. SUPPORTING DESIGN METHODS FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION DESIGN 
 HEURISTICS [van Eyk, 2011; Umeda & Tomiyama, 1997] [Christian et al., 2012; Daly et al., 2012; Yilmaz & Seifert, 2010; Yilmaz et al., 2010, 2014]
  9. 9. DESIGN HEURISTICS
  10. 10. DESIGN HEURISTICS Provides prompts to help designers generate alternatives that vary in nature, discouraging fixation and encouraging divergent patterns of thinking [Yilmaz, Daly, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2011; Yilmaz, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2010] Derived from empirical evidence of industrial and engineering designs [Daly et al., 2012; Yilmaz, Christian, Daly, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2012; 
 Yilmaz & Seifert, 2010] Validated through a range of product analysis, case studies, and protocol analyses, in both educational and professional contexts [e.g., Yilmaz & Seifert, 2009; Yilmaz et al., 2011; Yilmaz et al., 2010; Yilmaz et al., 2013; Yilmaz, Daly, Christian, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2014]
  11. 11. METHOD • 20 junior-level undergraduate industrial design students • Previously organized into teams of 4-5 students • Three-hour class session in the fourth week of the semester • Analysis of eight participants from two teams
  12. 12. DESIGN PROJECT “ ” Develop an innovative kitchen product related to rising food costs, the future of food, or the unique needs of millennials
  13. 13. DESIGN PROJECT INDIVIDUAL LADDERED PROBLEM STATEMENTS GROUP PROBLEM STATEMENT 15 MARKER COMPS FIRST FOUR WEEKS INDIVIDUAL FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION IDEATION, ITERATION, RECOMPOSITION 60 MINUTES TEAM AFFINITY 
 DIAGRAMMING ITERATION 60 MINUTES
  14. 14. DESIGN PROJECT INDIVIDUAL LADDERED PROBLEM STATEMENTS GROUP PROBLEM STATEMENT 15 MARKER COMPS FIRST INDIVIDUAL FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION IDEATION, ITERATION, RECOMPOSITION 60 MINUTES TEAM AFFINITY DIAGRAMMING ITERATION 60
  15. 15. INTERVENTION STRUCTURE DECOMPOSITION RECOMPOSITION TEAMINDIVIDUAL IDEATION ITERATIONITERATION RECOMPOSITION [See the following reference for more details on team interactions: Gray, C. M., Yilmaz, S., Daly, S., Seifert, C. M., & Gonzalez, R. (2015, June). What Problem Are We Solving? Encouraging Idea Generation and Effective Team Communication. In LearnxDesign: The 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers and PreK-16 Design Educators (pp. 308-329). Chicago, IL: School of the Art Institute of Chicago.]
  16. 16. Selected Function Stage 1: Ideation Stage 2: Iteration Stage 3: Recomposition # of Themes S1 compartments 8 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dividers 5: compartments 1: product with parts 6 TOTAL [DH:4] 2: dividers 1: compartments 2: motion expand/slide 1: attachment 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: compartments 2: attach together 6 S2 space saving 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: hang in fridge 2: store by stacking 2 TOTAL [DH:2) 1: hang in fridge 1: flex cover 1 TOTAL [DH:1] 1: flex cover 3 S3 compactable 8 TOTAL [DH:3] 6: fold/fit inside 1: spin to close 1: cone 6 TOTAL [DH:3) 2: rotate/spin 3: bend/compact 1: cups on both sides 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 2: fold/twist 1: button to power 8 S4 adjustable 8 TOTAL [DH:5] 3: make big/small/tall 1: attach components 1: texture to cue interaction 2: customize compartments 1: colander 8 TOTAL [DH:5) 3: make big/small/tall 1: attach components 1: texture to cue interaction 2: customize compartments 1: colander 3 TOTAL [DH:3] 1: customize by user 1: recyclable 1: adjustable 8 S5 dries food 4 TOTAL [DH:1] 4: drying mechanism 4 TOTAL [DH:2) 3: mechanism altered 1: dry and moisten 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: multipurpose 2: assemble/configure 5 S6 circulation 4 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: vent/component 1: motion 1: human power 2 TOTAL [DH:1] 2: vent/ component 2 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: flatten components 1: toasting 5 S7 hand held 8 TOTAL [DH:2] 5: handles 3: multifunction pan/pot/plate 5 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: handle 4: multifunction pan/pot 5 TOTAL [DH:4] 2: multifunction pot/pan 1: pan topper 1: measuring aid 1: multifunction handle 5 S8 cleaning 6 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dishwasher space 3: reverse/ flexible/popout 1: drain 5 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dishwasher space 3: reverse/ flexible/popout 1: drain 2 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: flexible + dishwasher 1: flexible + nibs 5
  17. 17. 1 What functions did students select through functional decomposition, and what specific function did they choose to focus on? Selected Function S1 compartments S2 space saving S3 compactable S4 adjustable S5 dries food S6 circulation S7 hand held S8 cleaning DIRECTIVE a discrete physical component or interaction with a clear action sequence DESCRIPTIVE desired design characteristics leading to a more abstract sense of the component or interaction that might be indicated 4 2
  18. 18. How did the students’ selected focus on function affect their concept generation at each stage (ideation, iteration, recomposition)? 2 IDEATION heating core ITERATION detachable top RECOMPOSITION doubles as storage
  19. 19. How did the students’ use of Design Heuristics affect concept generation at each stage? 3 IDEATION n=44 of 49 primarily physical transformations used subset of cards (often just one)
  20. 20. How did the students’ use of Design Heuristics affect concept generation at each stage? 3 IDEATION IDEATION n=44 of 49 primarily physical transformations used subset of cards (often just one) n=33 of 38 direct descendants; one element altered synthetic use; existing concept with new feature/ altered form
  21. 21. How did the students’ use of Design Heuristics affect concept generation at each stage? 3 IDEATION IDEATION RECOMPOSITION n=44 of 49 primarily physical transformations used subset of cards (often just one) n=33 of 38 direct descendants; one element altered synthetic use; existing concept with new feature/ altered form n=12 of 22 combining/selecting/ recontextualizing synthetic use; existing concept with new feature/altered form
  22. 22. DESIGN METHODS CAN BE SYNERGISTICALLY COMBINED TO SUPPORT DESIGNERS AS THEY EXPLICITLY SET CONSTRAINTS, USING CONSTRAINED PROBLEM FRAMINGS TO CREATE INNOVATIVE CONCEPTS AND EXPAND DESIGNERS’ UNDERSTANDING OF THE LARGER SOLUTION SPACE.
  23. 23. Thank You COLINGRAY.ME DESIGNHEURISTICS.COM This research is funded by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES Type II) Grants # 1323251 and #1322552.
  24. 24. Selected Function Stage 1: Ideation Stage 2: Iteration Stage 3: Recomposition # of Themes S1 compartments 8 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dividers 5: compartments 1: product with parts 6 TOTAL [DH:4] 2: dividers 1: compartments 2: motion expand/slide 1: attachment 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: compartments 2: attach together 6 S2 space saving 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: hang in fridge 2: store by stacking 2 TOTAL [DH:2) 1: hang in fridge 1: flex cover 1 TOTAL [DH:1] 1: flex cover 3 S3 compactable 8 TOTAL [DH:3] 6: fold/fit inside 1: spin to close 1: cone 6 TOTAL [DH:3) 2: rotate/spin 3: bend/compact 1: cups on both sides 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 2: fold/twist 1: button to power 8 S4 adjustable 8 TOTAL [DH:5] 3: make big/small/tall 1: attach components 1: texture to cue interaction 2: customize compartments 1: colander 8 TOTAL [DH:5) 3: make big/small/tall 1: attach components 1: texture to cue interaction 2: customize compartments 1: colander 3 TOTAL [DH:3] 1: customize by user 1: recyclable 1: adjustable 8 S5 dries food 4 TOTAL [DH:1] 4: drying mechanism 4 TOTAL [DH:2) 3: mechanism altered 1: dry and moisten 3 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: multipurpose 2: assemble/configure 5 S6 circulation 4 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: vent/component 1: motion 1: human power 2 TOTAL [DH:1] 2: vent/ component 2 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: flatten components 1: toasting 5 S7 hand held 8 TOTAL [DH:2] 5: handles 3: multifunction pan/pot/plate 5 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: handle 4: multifunction pan/pot 5 TOTAL [DH:4] 2: multifunction pot/pan 1: pan topper 1: measuring aid 1: multifunction handle 5 S8 cleaning 6 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dishwasher space 3: reverse/ flexible/popout 1: drain 5 TOTAL [DH:3] 2: dishwasher space 3: reverse/ flexible/popout 1: drain 2 TOTAL [DH:2] 1: flexible + dishwasher 1: flexible + nibs 5

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