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Balancing between divergence and convergence in design creativity research

Greetings from the design creativity research community, convening at Atlanta at the 4th International Conference on Design Creativity (ICDC). Chaired this year by Julie Lindsay at Georgia Tech, this close-knit three-day conference has a single track of presentations and avid discussions from participants from engineering design, industrial design and beyond.

The conference showcases that design creativity research can itself be quite creative. For example, Gillian Hatcher presented some intriguing research that is taking place at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland on the use of humor in design ideation. They’ve tried cartoons, laughter yoga, comical devices such as misunderstanding, displacement, absurdity, call-back, non-sequiturs… all in the name of enhancing the exploration process. The best results have come from improvisation, using a combination of the well-known “yes and” formula for initial ideation, and then identifying an unexpected or unusual element and heightening it by diving into “if then” rounds.

Plenty of presented research has dealt with prototyping and sketching. Qifang Bao from the Ideation Lab at MIT and her colleagues have been comparing sketching, prototyping or doing both activities during ideation. They found that sketching tended to yield more creative ideas, as well as more ideas in general during a set time, but prototyping led to more feasible concepts. As we ultimately want both creativity and feasibility, mixing these ways of working in different ways is worth playing with. Our own study revealed that without explicit countermeasures in early ideation and prototyping workshops, many diverse teams that start with one perspective dominating over others increase their collective focus on the dominant perspective rather than diversifying considered parameters.

On the other hand, the great deal of creativity that design researchers exhibit can sometimes make it difficult to compare results across studies. Nathan Crilly presented work done with his colleagues at Cambridge to make sense of the mixed evidence of showing examples either increasing or decreasing the number of generated ideas. They’ve found that while examples may promote fixation on a particular type of solutions, some of the results may better be explained when considering that the examples also suggest the appropriate level of detail that generated ideas should include.

One way to address the plethora of research designs, variables and data out there was discussed during the meeting of the Design Society Special Interest Group on Design Creativity – building a shared database or repository. In any case, we continue to aim to enhance both design and our own ways of studying it.

The 4th International Conference on Design Creativity is being held from November 2nd to 5th at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, USA. “Collaborative fixation in early problem exploration and ideation workshops”, by Miko, Tua and Senni, is amongst the papers published and presented at the conference.

Tua BjörklundBalancing between divergence and convergence in design creativity research
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