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Interactive Digital Support for Concept Design Teams

Wodehouse, Andrew J. and Ion, William and Bradley, David (2010) Interactive Digital Support for Concept Design Teams. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis develops a design method, the ICR (Inform, Create, Reflect) Grid, for improved utilisation of information during concept design. Although concept design is information intensive and critical to project direction, the effective management and use of digital information has not been adequately addressed. The ICR Grid is a prescriptive method which requires design teams to find and build information resources in parallel with creating solutions. As a solution-based approach it allows designers to freely explore ideas, while encouraging flexible thinking by using different modes of conceptual working (analysis, synthesis and evaluation). The output of the method is a linked grid of concepts and information sources. The exploratory phase of the research examined current design process models and concept design methods, with team information use patterns explored through protocol analyses of a design task. This was followed by an examination of literature relating to digital information and a class study on technological support for student designers. The outcome of these explorations was an understanding that to enhance digital information use in concept design, a new approach was necessary. Development began by correlating characteristics of computer games to concept design, with a view to applying new techniques to the structure and management of information. A number of scenarios were subsequently outlined, with one selected and developed using paper-based prototyping. This was eventually formalised as the ICR Grid. Initial evaluation of the new method was carried out through a comparative study with the 6-3-5 Method, which revealed that although fewer concepts were produced with the ICR Grid, they were of a higher quality, variety and detail. Three different companies then used the ICR Grid to address relevant industrial problems, with generally positive feedback obtained on its performance. Several areas are identified for future work and the further enhancement of information use.