Design problem solving with biological analogies: A verbal protocol study

Hyunmin Cheong, Gregory M. Hallihan, L. H. Shu

Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing
2014

Abstract

Biomimetic design applies biological analogies to solve design problems and has been known to produce innovative solutions. However, when designers are asked to perform biomimetic design, they often have difficulty recognizing analogies between design problems and biological phenomena. Therefore, this research aims to investigate designer behaviors that either hinder or promote the use of analogies in biomimetic design. A verbal protocol study was conducted on 30 engineering students working in small teams while participating in biomimetic design sessions. A coding scheme was developed to analyze cognitive processes involved in biomimetic design. We observed that teams were less likely to apply overall biological analogies if they tended to recall existing solutions that could be easily associated with specific superficial or functional characteristics of biological phenomena. We also found that the tendency to evaluate ideas, which reflects critical thinking, correlates with the likelihood of identifying overall biological analogies. Insights from this paper may contribute toward developing generalized methods to facilitate biomimetic design.

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