Information management for creative stimuli in engineering design

  • Tom Howard

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis describes research carried to investigate the role of creative stimuli in the engineering design process. The research was cross-disciplinary bringing findings and perspectives from cognitive psychology to engineering design. The theoretical work undertaken has produced a model to represent how information can be made to work effectively as creative stimuli, inspiring creative ideas that in turn affect the design outputs produced through the creative design process. By combining participation action research with an observational audit, the information-use profiles were constructed for the innovation hub within the associated case company. These gave details of the types of projects and tasks undertaken by the case company; the designers working on them, and most importantly the information being used during design activities. It was shown that over 50% of the information uses recorded were working on diagrammatic representations, predominantly using CAD and imaging software. In this thesis it is shown that information captured, documented and stored by a company can be used as a useful source of creative stimuli. A tool was proposed to retrieve this information in a guided manner to support creative idea generation in industrial brainstorm sessions. The evidence suggested that introducing any of the tested formats of stimuli to a brainstorm group had positive affect on both the rate of idea production and the quality of the ideas being produced. Stimuli sourced internally to the case company in a guided manner were shown to perform as well as the most established creative stimuli tools available.
Date of Award1 Apr 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStephen Culley (Supervisor) & Elies Dekoninck (Supervisor)


  • information
  • engineering
  • stimuli
  • creativity
  • design

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