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Design Fixation Research Methodology: Towards a More Objective Approach

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The term ‘design fixation’ describes instances in which designers may unconsciously adhere to a limited set of ideas, overlooking other parts of the design space. Design fixation is a problem in professional design practice and has been measured and manipulated in many experimental studies. The established experimental approach to studying design fixation suffers from a number of limitations, including the exclusive focus on unbounded ideation, limited data capture and the use of subjective metrics to evaluate the design outcomes. In an attempt to overcome these methodological limitations, this talk will present the results of a study in which design fixation was investigated with a computer-based task inspired by psychological research. The use of a digital environment facilitated continuous data capture during the design activities and the constrained task (and direct quantitative measures) permitted a more objective analysis of design performance. The method used and the results obtained offer an exciting alternative for studying design fixation experimentally and promote a wider exploration of the variety of design activities in which fixation might occur.

This talk is part of the Engineering Design Centre Seminars series.

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