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Visual analogy, visual displays, and the nature of design problems: the effect of expertise


  • Hernan Casakin


Analogy is a powerful heuristic for problem solving. In design, where designers are constantly exposed to visual stimuli, visual analogies are considered to be particularly helpful. To date, however, few researchers have given enough attention to visual analogy and visual displays in design contexts. This study deals with the use of these tools by investigating the effect that expertise has on them, in ill-defined and well-defined problem solving. Novice and experienced designers solved both types of design problem with exposure to visual displays and with the requirement to use visual analogy. Results showed that when visual displays and instructions to use analogy were available no expertise differences existed in well-defined problem solving. However, with the availability of only visual displays, architects tend to perform better than students. Without guidance to use analogy, students found difficulty in spontaneous recall of visual displays as candidate analogues in well-defined problems. In ill-defined problem solving, architects performed better than novice students in the use of both analogy and visual displays. However, no differences were found between the experienced designers and the advanced students in any experimental condition in this problem context.

Suggested Citation

  • Hernan Casakin, 2010. "Visual analogy, visual displays, and the nature of design problems: the effect of expertise," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 37(1), pages 170-188, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirb:v:37:y:2010:i:1:p:170-188

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