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The Meaning of “Near” and “Far”: The Impact of Structuring Design Databases and the Effect of Distance of Analogy on Design Output

[+] Author Affiliations
Katherine Fu, Jonathan Cagan, Kenneth Kotovsky

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Joel Chan, Christian Schunn

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Kristin Wood

Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore

Paper No. DETC2012-70420, pp. 877-888; 12 pages
doi:10.1115/DETC2012-70420
From:
  • 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

abstract

This work lends insight into the meaning and impact of “near” and “far” analogies. A cognitive engineering design study is presented that examines the effect of the distance of analogical design stimuli on design solution generation, and places those findings in context of results from the literature. The work ultimately sheds new light on the impact of analogies in the design process and the significance of their distance from a design problem. In this work, the design repository from which analogical stimuli are chosen is the U.S. patent database, a natural choice, as it is one of the largest and easily accessed catalogued databases of inventions. The “near” and “far” analogical stimuli for this study were chosen based on a structure of patents, created using a combination of Latent Semantic Analysis and a Bayesian based algorithm for discovering structural form, resulting in clusters of patents connected by their relative similarity. The findings of this engineering design study are contextualized with the findings of recent work in design by analogy, by mapping the analogical stimuli used in the earlier work into similar structures along with the patents used in the current study. Doing so allows the discovery of a relationship between all of the stimuli and their relative distance from the design problem. The results confirm that “near” and “far” are relative terms, and depend on the characteristics of the potential stimuli. Further, although the literature has shown that “far” analogical stimuli are more likely to lead to the generation innovative solutions with novel characteristics, there is such a thing as too far. That is, if the stimuli are too distant, they then can become harmful to the design process. Importantly, as well, the data mapping approach to identify analogies works, and is able to impact the effectiveness of the design process. This work has implications not only in the area of finding inspirational designs to use for design by analogy processes in practice, but also for synthesis, or perhaps even unification, of future studies in the field of design by analogy.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Design , Databases

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