How task constraints affect inspiration search strategies

  • Michael Mose BiskjaerEmail author
  • Bo T. Christensen
  • Morten Friis-Olivarius
  • Sille J. J. Abildgaard
  • Caroline Lundqvist
  • Kim Halskov


Searching for sources of inspiration is central to creative design; however, we have limited knowledge of individual inspiration search strategies in response to varying levels of task constraints. We studied 39 high-school students’ inspiration search strategies using Google Images. Low task constrainedness led to divergent search marked by quick iterations, limited design task usage, and a heterogeneous image set. Intermediate constrainedness prompted in-depth, on-task exploration characterized by slow and careful iterations with more search result examination, extensive design task usage, and homogenous images. High constrainedness led to flexible bracketing with quick, flexible design task use, ending with heterogeneous images. Images from the intermediately and highly constrained conditions generated more ideas and were perceived as more inspiring (relative to low) in a new group of students. We discuss the idea of a ‘sweet spot’ of constrainedness in an inspiration search process in design and consider implications for design research and future work.


Sources of inspiration Search strategy Constraints Google Images Quantitative study Sweet spot 



We would like to thank the teachers and students from Ørestad High School, Copenhagen. This research was funded by the Innovation Fund Denmark (Grant 1311-00001B, CIBIS) and the Velux Foundations Grant: Digital Tools in Collaborative Creativity.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Digital CreativityAarhus UniversityAarhus NDenmark
  2. 2.Department of MarketingCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark

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