Identifying New Design Problems: Observations from Senior Undergraduates

DS 74: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Engineering & Product Design Education (E&PDE12) Design Education for Future Wellbeing, Antwerp, Belguim, 06-07.9.2012

Year: 2012
Editor: Lyndon Buck, Geert Frateur, William Ion, Chris McMahon, Chris Baelus, Guido De Grande, Stijn Verwulgen
Author: Choi, Young Mi
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology, United States of America
Section: New Design Education Paradigms
Page(s): 393-398
ISBN: 978-1-904670-36-0


A good body of literature exists that examines the process of problem solving as it is an important activity in many fields from design, engineering or management to name a few. Much less has been written about the process of identifying and articulating problems to be solved. This paper examines some of the challenges encountered by undergraduate students in the formulation of design problem statements based on observations of senior Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering students in their final semester. Though the students come from different disciplines, they all encountered similar difficulties. Identifying a design problem and boundaries was a new experience for most students. It required students to synthesize and filter information from different knowledge domains. Human factors issues were observed such as cognitive limitations related to short term memory: the need to process a large number or variables simultaneously, and long term memory: efficiencies that can be gained though prior experience with a topic. The stress associated with the need to find a topic as well as the motivation level of individual students appeared to play a role in their success. These issues and other observations will be discussed in light of existing literature on the process of identifying problems.

Keywords: Design problem definition, design research


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