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The Four-Box Method of Problem Specification and Analogy Evaluation in Biologically Inspired Design

[+] Author Affiliations
Michael Helms, Ashok K. Goel

Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Paper No. DETC2014-35672, pp. V007T07A005; 10 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


The process of biologically inspired design is fundamentally analogical; given a design problem, the process retrieves potentially multiple biological analogues as potential sources of inspiration. The selection of a specific analogue for idea generation naturally has a strong influence on the final design. But what makes one biological analogue better than another for a given design problem? In the context of a classroom on biologically inspired design, we found that interdisciplinary design teams often struggle with this question. In this paper, we describe a Four-Box method that identifies function, operating environment, constraints, and performance criteria as dimensions for matching biological analogues with the design problem. We also present some initial results from a classroom implementation of the Four-Box method of analogy evaluation: The results suggest that the student designers found the Four-Box method both useful and usable.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Topics: Design



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