The use of systematic and heuristic methods in the basic design cycle: a comparative survey of students’ method usage

DS 76: Proceedings of E&PDE 2013, the 15th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin, Ireland, 05-06.09.2013

Year: 2013
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Person, Oscar; Daalhuizen, Jaap; Gattol, Valentin
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: Aalto University / Delft University of Technology, Finland; 2: Delft University of Technology / Technical University of Denmark; 3: Delft University of Technology
Section: Experimental Studies in Design Methods
Page(s): 190-196
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


In the present paper, we study the reported use of systematic and heuristic methods for 304 students enrolled in a master-level course on design theory and methodology. What to teach design and engineering students about methods is an important topic for discussion. One reason for this is that the experiences of design educators when using methods in their teaching do not always sit well with how methods are portrayed in the literature. Based on self-reports of the students, we study the use of systematic and heuristic methods for the five activities in the basic design cycle: (1) analysis, (2) synthesis, (3) simulation, (4) evaluation, and (5) decision-making. The results of our study suggest that systematic and heuristic methods fulfil different roles for the students when designing. The students reported to use heuristic methods significantly more for synthesis, while they reported to use systematic methods significantly more for evaluation and decision-making. In understanding the potential origin of these use practices, we call for more in-depth studies on method usage in design, for instance related to the role of preference and knowledge on systematic and heuristic methods usage.

Keywords: Method teaching, heuristic methods, systematic methods


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