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Instruction in Divergent Thinking for Conceptual Design: A Case Study Based on a Corkscrew

Ying-Chieh Liu, Chin-Yu Kao, Amaresh Chakrabarti


Abstraction is a powerful tool for designers in the conceptual design stage. Such abstractions take various forms, and little is known as to how a particular method of abstraction would support designers in specific design cases. A method is proposed which includes a deliberate step for divergent thinking. The method presents learners with an abstract representation of an existing artifact, and encourages them to explore potential concepts that are different in style but are based on the same or similar abstraction as that given in the representation. To evaluate how the method would help novice designers, a summer workshop activity of designing stylish corkscrews was conducted with twelve recent graduates from industrial design graduate programs. The students come from a variety of academic backgrounds. The processes for concept generation, making a prototype and a summarized statement are the main inputs used for activity assessment. Students proposed a total of 56 design concepts, with an average of 4.7 concepts per student. Design-related students (six participants) generated between 3 and 12 concepts, while students without a design background generated between 1 to 6 concepts. The concepts were divided into five classes based on appearance: human-like, animal-like, artificial product-like, plant-like, and phenomena-like. Of the 12 students, three produced mechanically functional prototypes. Based on student feedback, the pros of the instructional approach included support for the linking of concepts, encouraged learner engagement, and promoted specific thinking processes. Results suggested this method has potential for supporting positive learning outcomes, particularly in generating a range of stylish concepts based on an existing artifact within a limited time frame. However, prototype development would require additional support.


Conceptual design, corkscrew design, design methodology, innovation, mechanical movements, novice designers

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