A framework for studying design thinking through measuring designers’ minds, bodies and brains

Abstract: This paper presents a framework for studying design thinking. Three paradigmatic approaches are described to measure design cognitive processes: design cognition, design physiology and design neurocognition. Specific tools and methods serve each paradigmatic approach. Design cognition is explored through protocol analysis, black-box experiments or surveys and interviews. Design physiology is measured with eye-tracking, electrodermal activity (EDA), heart rate and emotion tracking. Design neurocognition is measured using EEG, fNIRS and fMRI. Illustrative examples are presented to describe the types of results each method provides on characteristics of design thinking, such as design patterns, design reasoning, design creativity, design collaboration, the co-evolution of the problem solution space, or design analysis and evaluation. The triangulation of results from the three paradigmatic approaches to studying design thinking provides a synergistic foundation for the understanding of design cognitive processes. Results from such studies generate a source of feedback to designers, design educators and researchers in design science. New models, new tools and new research questions emerge from the integrated approach proposed and lay down future challenges in studying design thinking.

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