Toward the development of methods to support creative concept selection in engineering design

Open Access
Gosnell, Christopher Andrew
Graduate Program:
Industrial Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Scarlett Rae Miller, Thesis Advisor
  • Sven G Bilen, Thesis Advisor
  • Engineering Design
  • Creativity
  • Concept Selection
  • Product Design
  • Engineering Education
Engineering design idea-generation sessions often result in dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas. These ideas must be quickly evaluated and filtered in order to select a few candidate concepts to move forward in the design process. While creativity is often stressed in the conceptual phases of design, it receives little attention in these later phases – particularly during concept selection. This is largely because there are no methods for quickly rating or identifying worthwhile creative concepts during this process. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to develop and test a novel method for evaluating the creativity and feasibility of design concepts. The first phase of this research involved the creation of a creativity evaluation methodology that utilizes word selections and semantic similarity to quickly and effectively evaluate candidate concepts. To test its utility during concept selection, an empirical study with ten engineering designers was completed. The results revealed that our methodology and rating system could be used as a proxy for measuring design creativity regardless of the openness of the design task. The second phase of this thesis sought to investigate the impact of decision-making bias during concept selection and to refine our design creativity evaluation methodology. In order to accomplish this, an online questionnaire was developed and administered to 11 expert and 11 novice design engineers. The results from this study supported the use of our creativity evaluation methodology with both expert and novice raters for early design creativity. It also contributes to our understanding of experience bias in creativity evaluation and provided a framework for computational design creativity systems. The final phase of this thesis sought to explore the use of the creativity assessment methodologies within a classroom setting and to compare the results from team evaluations and individual team member evaluations. During this phase, our creativity evaluation methodology was developed into a printable toolkit to help students evaluate designs for an in-class project. In this study, 32 students in teams of four utilized the toolkit to analyze design sketches from their team members. The results from this study showed significant relationships between individual and team perception based evaluations that utilized sliding scales and group discussion and our adjective selection method. However, the widely adopted creativity evaluation method from academia that compared designs feature by feature appeared to be measuring something else entirely. The results from this thesis are used to develop recommendations for the use of creative concept selection tools in engineering design. In addition, the results are extrapolated to create recommendations for an online web application geared enhancing the usability and accessibility of concept selection tools for both academic and industrial implementation.