Design Heuristics: Cognitive Strategies for Creativity in Idea Generation

  • Seda Yilmaz
  • Colleen M. Seifert
  • Richard Gonzalez


This paper explores the use of heuristics as cognitive strategies invoked during the process of design. We propose new heuristics for design that provide ways to explore the problem space of potential designs, and often lead to the generation of creative solutions. We test whether Design Heuristics can be taught to novices, and whether doing so will improve the creativity of their resulting designs.

In the present empirical study, we evaluate a set of six instructional heuristics, and validate their effectiveness with product concepts generated by novice designers. Six hundred and seventy three drawings were created by 120 first-year college students under four instructional conditions. Drawings were coded according to the use of heuristics, and scored for creativity. The results showed that the most creative concepts emerged from the experimental conditions where heuristics were introduced. Heuristics appeared to help the participants “jump” into a new problem space, resulting in more varied designs, and a greater number of designs judged as more creative.

Our findings suggest that the simple demonstration of design heuristics may, at times, be sufficient to stimulate variation and creativity in design.


Design Task Cognitive Strategy Serial Order Divergent Thinking Product Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seda Yilmaz
    • 1
  • Colleen M. Seifert
    • 1
  • Richard Gonzalez
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganUSA

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