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January 2010

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International Journal of Engineering Education



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Design Creativity, Innovation, Analogy, Design Fixation


Engineering Education | Mechanical Engineering


Tomorrow’s sustainable designers will need an arsenal of tools for innovation. An approach for teaching design methods and innovation is described. A new approach for teaching design methods based on the use of analogous products to provide concrete experiences prior to the method’s application to a novel design problem was evaluated. Students’ opinions of the various design methods and their perceptions of the class’s influence on their creativity were also measured. Past experiments have shown that the presentation of example solutions has the potential to cause design fixation thus limiting the design solutions considered. Due to this, the teams’ final proof-of-concept models were compared with their initial analogous products to measure degree of design fixation. Results show that the use of analogous products early in the class’s design process does not appear to cause design fixation but the students would prefer to have standardized products to learn the methods with. The design methods taught in class may assist in overcoming the design fixation introduced by the analogous products or it may be that since the analogous products were cross domain analogies they may have induced less design fixation. The course which included sustainable design projects was highly successful in influencing students’ creativity. Students’ clearly felt they were better at generating ideas and that the course had improved their innovation skills.


This article originally appeared in International Journal of Engineering Education in Volume 26, Issue 2. It is included here with permission and can be found online at this link.