Design Heuristics are a research-based tool developed to help expand the number and diversity of ideas developed by designers during idea generation. They were developed by analyzing idea generation processes and outcomes of designers with a range in expertise. As brainstorming is a commonly used ideation technique across engineering education and practice, our research sought to compare the qualities of ideas generated by incoming engineering freshman using both techniques—brainstorming and Design Heuristics. We also compared the outcomes generated with each technique with regards to their elaboration, creativity, diversity, and level of similarity to their first idea (a measure of design fixation).
Data collection was conducted at a workshop for 200 incoming engineering freshmen. The students were taught idea generation based on a scripted presentation prepared by the research team. First, the students were formally introduced to brainstorming. The students generated five solutions to one of two given design problems using the brainstorming method. The proctor then gave an introduction to Design Heuristics. Students generated five more solutions to the same design problem using the Design Heuristics. For each student, data includes five concepts generated via brainstorming, five concepts generated via Design Heuristics, and a self-perceptions survey. All 200 data sets were scanned and organized. From this, 20 data were randomly chosen from one of the design problems for qualitative pattern analysis aimed to focus on qualities of ideas generated using each technique.
Findings focus on patterns observed across the 10 ideas of the 20 student datasets used in this qualitative analysis. For example, one quality that appeared in many solutions to a design problem about more efficient burrito-making using the brainstorming technique was a 3D-printer whose filament was made of burrito ingredients. Further analysis presented includes other patterns related to which idea generation strategy was used. This quality analysis allows us to explore ideation in a more in-depth way than traditional ideation ratings alone (creativity, practicality, elaboration, and diversity), providing further insight into how different techniques direct thinking during design ideation.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.