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Evaluating the Directed Method for Bioinspired Design

[+] Author Affiliations
Michael W. Glier, Joanna Tsenn, Julie S. Linsey, Daniel A. McAdams

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Paper No. DETC2012-71511, pp. 403-413; 11 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 9th International Conference on Design Education; 24th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, August 12–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4506-6
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


Bioinspired design, the practice of looking to nature to find inspiration for engineering design, is becoming an increasingly desired approach to design. It allows designers to tap a wealth of time-tested solutions to difficult problems in a domain rarely considered by designers. Only recently have researchers developed organized, systematic methods for bioinspired design. These methods include BioTRIZ, an extension of functional modeling for bioinspired design, engineering-to-biology keyword translation tools, and specialized design tools like DANE and SAPPHIRE. These organized methods are currently active research efforts. Traditionally, however, bioinspired design has been conducted without the benefit of any organized method. Without the support of formal methods, designers have relied on the “directed method” of bioinspired design. The directed method approach simply directs designers to consider how nature might approach a problem in order to help designers find solutions. This paper presents an experiment to explore the impact upon idea generation of simply contemplating how nature would solve a design problem. This experiment is foundationally important to bioinspired engineering design method research. The results of this experiment serve as a fundamental baseline and benchmark for the comparison of more systematic, and often more involved, bioinspired design methods.

A group of 121 novice designers are given one of two design problems and instructed to either generate solutions using the “directed method,” considering how nature would solve the problem, or to generate solutions without being prompted to use any method. Based on the findings presented here, the directed method offers designers no advantage in the average number of non-redundant ideas the designers can produce, the average quality of their solutions, the average solution novelty, or the variety of solutions proposed. Overall, this investigation finds no significant difference in idea generation between the directed method and the control condition. In conclusion, systematic and organized methods for bioinspired design should instead be sought to effectively leverage nature’s design knowledge.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Design , Biomimetics



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