Change as little as possible: creativity in design by modification

Eckert, Claudia M.; Stacey, Martin; Wyatt, David and Garthwaite, Pam (2012). Change as little as possible: creativity in design by modification. Journal of Engineering Design, 23(4) pp. 337–360.



While design research has concentrated on creativity in the early phases of design and on creativity in very open-ended design tasks, in practice many design projects concern the modification or incremental development of existing systems to meet new needs and restrictions. Some projects adopt a process of defining, prioritizing and propagating requirements and constraints that bypasses conceptual design as it is conventionally understood. However incremental development requires creative design to deal with multiple conflicting requirements, both in early design and in solving later local problems: the challenge lies in finding a satisfactory solution while avoiding a cascade of changes to the rest of the system. This paper draws on two case studies, one of the design of a new generation of diesel engines and one of the refurbishment of a hospital ward, to argue that in these domains creativity is required to find designs that change as little as possible and meet the given requirements with minimal effort.

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