Title: An experimental approach to understanding design problem structuring strategies

Authors: Ganyun Sun; Shengji Yao; Juan A. Carretero

Addresses: Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of New Brunswick, 15 Dineen Dr., Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5A3, Canada ' Department of Mechanical Engineering, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. W, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4L7, Canada ' Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of New Brunswick, 15 Dineen Dr., Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5A3, Canada

Abstract: This study has developed an experimental approach to understanding the effectiveness of problem structuring strategies such as decomposition modes and control strategies. Participants were randomly recruited to individually complete a design problem in a lab, and their design outcomes, including sketches and retrospective verbal protocols, were collected. The effectiveness of problem structuring was represented as the ratio of output to input of the human information processing system: the output was the quality of design outcomes, and the input was participants' mental effort normalised by the complexity of problem structuring. The case study has shown that the participants who applied the explicit decomposition mode and the breadth-first strategy had significantly higher effectiveness scores than those who applied the implicit mode and the depth-first strategy. The results suggest that effective problem structuring strategies should be encouraged in design idea generation and design education.

Keywords: problem structuring; cognitive demand; mental effort; function decomposition; explicit decomposition; implicit decomposition; breadth-first strategy; depth-first strategy; design education; design problems; design idea generation.

DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2016.074778

Journal of Design Research, 2016 Vol.14 No.1, pp.94 - 117

Available online: 16 Feb 2016 *

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