I’ve been highlighting aspects of Design Thinking in several episodes and I continue with this episode that considers how idea generation can be improved using design heuristics. I discussed the topic with Seda Yilmaz, a professor in the Department of Industrial Design at Iowa State University. She earned her PhD in Design Science from the University of Michigan. Seda and three colleagues from the fields of psychology, industrial design, and engineering wrote a chapter in the Design Thinking: New Product Development Essentials book titled Boosting Creativity in Idea Generation using Design Heuristics . The discussion is about how 77 design heuristics can improve the ideation activity of Design Thinking and product development.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- What is a design heuristic? First, the concept of a heuristic comes from the cognitive science domain. It is a simple rule of thumb for making a judgment. They tend to be used by experts who have developed knowledge of rules of thumb and an understanding of when they can and cannot be applied based on experience. A design heuristic is a prompt that encourages exploration of a variety of ideas during product ideation (idea generation). Seda and her fellow researchers use a set of 77 design heuristics that help guide product designers and engineers in considering non-obvious solutions to customers’ problems.
- How did you identify the 77 design heuristics? Three data sources were used. The first one was from an analysis of award winning products. The second was from a behavioral study of design experts and students. The third was a case study performed by an expert designer with over 40 years of experience. Each data source led to identifying design heuristics. Together the three data sources produced 130 design heuristics. After analyzing each and identifying ones that should be combined, 77 heuristics emerged.
- What are some examples of design heuristics? Each of the heuristics have names and are described on cards (similar to playing cards). The prompts are intentionally simple to make them easy to learn and easy to implement. One is Designing for Specific Users. It prompts designing product functions for a specific target user. Another example is Reconfigure, which looks at changing the way product components are configured. The figures below are two additional examples, Reorient and Add to Existing Product, from the design heuristic Cards available at Design Heuristics.
- What are examples of applying design heuristics to generate ideas for new products? Rubbermaid made use of the Flatten heuristic when creating rubber storage containers that collapse like an accordion to save space when not being used and easily expand when needed. Cover or Wrap is a heuristic for improving a product, which was used by company that created a cloth covering for a teapot to keep the tea hotter longer. Nest is a heuristic often seen in containers that fit one inside another as well as in wooden Russian nesting dolls.
- When it comes to the traditional activities employed in Design Thinking of empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing, where are the design heuristics most helpful? The ideation activity is a perfect spot to use the design heuristics. They help designers consider many options to improve ideation outcomes.
- Design Heuristics website with the “cards” containing 77 design heuristics.
- Seda’s LinkedIn profile and Iowa State University bio.
- Design Thinking: New Product Development Essentials book from the PDMA with the 77 design heuristics chapter.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan
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