Viswanathan, V.K. and Linsey J.S. 2009. “Enhancing Student Innovation: Physical Models in the Idea Generation Process.” Frontiers in Education, San Antonio, TX, USA.
Innovation and engineering creativity are highly sought after skills. Unfortunately, little guidance exists for developing and teaching these critical skills. Physical representations ranging from simple, very rough models to full working prototypes are common within the design process and are a likely tool for supporting innovation. There are varied and conflicting recommendations on when physical models should be employed. Some studies suggest physical models cause design fixation. Design fixation is when designers think of a particular concept and it limits the ideas they are able to generate. The effects of physical models in the idea generation process were explored through a controlled experiment comparing participants who sketched, built, or built & tested their concepts. Results show that physical models overcome gaps in designers’ mental models thus producing a greater number of functional ideas that solve the design problem. In addition, physical models appear to not cause design fixation but a larger sample size is required to verify this result. Similar levels of novelty and variety are observed across the conditions.
Methodology: Individual design task (new paperclip design) w/ sketching, building, and building & testing experimental variables