Using Templates and Mapping Strategies to Support Analogical Transfer in Biomimetic Design

Hyunmin Cheong, L. H. Shu

Design Studies


While biological phenomena can serve as meaningful analogies to inspire innovative design, previous studies found that designers often use descriptions of biological phenomena in non-analogous ways. Two experiments were conducted with novice designers to investigate how to decrease the non-analogous use of biological phenomena in concept generation. Properly applied, a causal relation template, developed based on Gentner's framework of analogical reasoning, decreased participants' non-analogous concepts. We identified two further interventions that reduce the tendency to develop non-analogous concepts: (1) one-to-one mapping instructions and (2) mapping the source analog to multiple problem-independent scenarios before concept generation. Understanding and reducing non-analogous application of biological phenomena may enable designers to more fully take advantage of biomimetic, or biologically inspired, design.


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