Skip to main content

About this book

This is the proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition (DCC’18) held at the Polytecnico di Milano in Italy. This volume presents both advances in theory and applications and demonstrates the depth and breadth of design computing and design cognition. Design thinking, the label given to the acts of designing, has become a paradigmatic view that has transcended the discipline of design and is now widely used in business and elsewhere. As a consequence there is an increasing interest in design research. This volume contains papers that represent the state-of-the-art research and developments in design computing and design cognition. This book is of particular interest to researchers, developers and users of advanced computation in design and those who need to gain a better understanding of designing that can be obtained through empirical studies.

Table of Contents


New Design Methods


Toward the Rapid Design of Engineered Systems Through Deep Neural Networks

The design of a system commits a significant portion of the final cost of that system. Many computational approaches have been developed to assist designers in the analysis (e.g., computational fluid dynamics) and synthesis (e.g., topology optimization) of engineered systems.

Christopher McComb

Deep Component-Based Neural Network Energy Modelling for Early Design Stage Prediction

Developing low-energy buildings calls for low-energy design and operations. Estimating operational energy of a building design supports major decisions taken at early design stages. To support early design decisions, accurate and quick predictions are required; a decision taken on predictions with poor quality can result in a wrong decision.

Sundaravelpandian Singaravel, Philipp Geyer

Unsuccessful External Search: Using Neuroimaging to Understand Fruitless Periods of Design Ideation Involving Inspirational Stimuli

This paper uses neuroimaging to provide insight into specific cognitive processes involved in design conceptualization with and without the support of inspirational stimuli. In particular, this work focuses on neural activity during unsuccessful search for a design solution. Twenty-one participants completed a brainstorming task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Kosa Goucher-Lambert, Jarrod Moss, Jonathan Cagan

Designing with and for the Crowd: A Cognitive Study of Design Processes in NatureNet

NatureNet is a citizen science project that, in addition to collecting biodiversity data, invites end-users to contribute design ideas to guide the its future design and development. This paper presents the NatureNet model of crowdsourcing design, then compares an analysis of the design process to published analyses of traditional face-to-face design processes. The protocol analysis approach is used to segment and code the design ideas submitted to NatureNet.

Stephen MacNeil, Sarah Abdellahi, Mary Lou Maher, Jin Goog Kim, Mohammad Mahzoon, Kazjon Grace

A Comparison of Tree Search Methods for Graph Topology Design Problems

In this paper, we discuss the relevance and effectiveness of two common methods for searching decision trees that represent design problems. When design problems are encoded in decision trees they are often multimodal, capture a range of complexity in valid solutions, and have distinguishable internal locations.

Ada-Rhodes Short, Bryony L. DuPont, Matthew I. Campbell

Design Cognition—Design Approaches


Externalizing Co-design Cognition Through Immersive Retrospection

This paper presents an insightful explanation of designers’ experience over time during immersive co-design sessions. The data was collected through immersive retrospection interviews, here used to assess a co-design activity. Three teams of two proficient designers individually self-evaluated their perceived experience by observing an immersive video unfolding their respective co-design sessions inside a social virtual environment (Hyve-3D).

Tomás Dorta, Emmanuel Beaudry Marchand, Davide Pierini

Demystifying the Creative Qualities of Evolving Actions in Design Reasoning Processes

This paper detects the levels of contribution to design creativity of critical moves and sudden insights and identifies the syntheses the creative process may take. Using architecture case studies, designing situations are analysed as sketching episodes that reflect the structural units of reasoning to deduce common characteristics for the emergence of critical moves and sudden insights.

Tamir El-Khouly

The Effect of Tangible Interaction on Spatial Design Tasks

Tangible user interfaces (TUIs) enable physical affordances that encourage the spatial manipulation of multiple physical objects to interact with digital information. We claim that the affordances of tangible interaction can affect design cognition on spatial tasks. While many researchers have claimed that TUIs improve spatial cognition, there is a lack of agreement about what improve means and a lack of empirical evidence to support the general claim. While most cognitive studies of TUIs focus on a comparison of tangible and traditional GUI keyboard and mouse interaction, we focus on comparing the use of TUIs on spatial versus nonspatial design tasks to validate the claim that tangible interaction specifically affects spatial design tasks. The results show that TUIs encourage users to perform more epistemic actions, leads to unexpected discoveries, and off-loads spatial reasoning to the physical objects. We conclude that the positive impact of tangible interaction is more dominant in spatial design tasks than nonspatial design tasks.

Jingoog Kim, Mary Lou Maher, Lina Lee

Side-by-Side Human–Computer Design Using a Tangible User Interface

We present a digital–physical system to support human–computer collaborative design. The system consists of a sensor-instrumented “sand table” functioning as a tangible space for exploring early-stage design decisions.

Matthew V. Law, Nikhil Dhawan, Hyunseung Bang, So-Yeon Yoon, Daniel Selva, Guy Hoffman

Design Synthesis


Utility of Evolutionary Design in Architectural Form Finding: An Investigation into Constraint Handling Strategies

Evolutionary design allows complex design search spaces to be explored, potentially leading to the discovery of novel design alternatives.

Likai Wang, Patrick Janssen, Guohua Ji

Exploring the Feature Space to Aid Learning in Design Space Exploration

In this paper, we introduce the concept of exploring the feature space to aid learning in the context of design space exploration. The feature space is defined as a possible set of features mapped in a 2D plane with each axis representing different interestingness measures, such as precision or recall. Similar to how a designer explores the design space, one can explore the feature space by observing how different features vary in their ability to explain a set of design solutions. We hypothesize that such process helps designers gain a better understanding of the design space. To test this hypothesis, we conduct a controlled experiment with human subjects. The result suggests that exploring the feature space has the potential to enhance the user’s ability to identify important features and predict the performance of a design. However, such observation is limited only to the participants with some previous experience with design space exploration.

Hyunseung Bang, Yuan Ling Zi Shi, Guy Hoffman, So-Yeon Yoon, Daniel Selva

Redefining Supports: Extending Mass Customization with Digital Tools for Collaborative Residential Design

Fluctuating economies and changing family demographics have increasingly complicated the spatial requirements of contemporary housing.

Tian Tian Lo, Basem Mohamed, Marc Aurel Schnabel

Voxel Synthesis for Generative Design

In the ever-evolving world of computer rendering technologies, the demand for more original and diverse 3D models is ever-increasing, to the point where the man-hours required to create these models for video games, movies and architectural designs are now counted in hundreds, if not thousands. This paper proposes a new way to generate relatively large voxel models from smaller example voxel models given by the user.

Matvey Khokhlov, Immanuel Koh, Jeffrey Huang

Design Theory


Model-Based Abduction in Design

In prior literature, design abduction has been conceived in sentential (propositional) terms. The aim in this presentation is to explore the significance of internal mental models and images, and their external projections, in design abduction. Seminal and current literature on model-based reasoning in cognitive psychology and philosophy of science are reviewed. A retrospective case study on the invention of the airplane by the Wright brothers reveals that most occurrences of design abduction were model based. Conclusions and reflections flowing from the findings are presented.

Lauri Koskela, Ehud Kroll

Ekphrasis as a Basis for a Framework for Creative Design Processes

This paper introduces the notion of ekphrasis in the arts as a basis for developing a framework of creative designing. Ekphrasis is the transformation of a concept from one medium or domain (e.g. sculpture) to another medium or domain (e.g. music). When used in design, ekphrasis enables the use of new processes afforded within the new domain that can produce new concepts not available in the original domain. We show how five known mechanisms of creative designing—emergence, analogy, combination, mutation and first principles—can be included in a general framework as instantiations of ekphrasis. This framework is developed based on the function–behaviour–structure (FBS) ontology and its application to affordances.

Udo Kannengiesser, John S. Gero

Notes for an Improvisational Specification of Design Spaces

Classical specifications for design spaces are characterized by an implicit need for a priori closure of descriptions of alternative designs before calculating. In this paper, an improvisational specification for design spaces made of shapes is presented. Shapes created visually and without prior description are recorded in a computation history. This history is read backwards to specify descriptions of recorded shapes and the space in which they are closed members. Descriptions of shapes, and the space in which they lie, are both made on the go as rules are applied in the course of a computation; every new visual action (rule application) redescribes the space in which the shapes obtained “thus far” belong. A reconsideration of the classical notion of a design space and its various uses in design theory is suggested, emphasizing a need to reconcile traditional formalistic pursuits that aim at “capturing” descriptions of alternative design possibilities with the open-ended, improvisational nature of creative work in architecture, the visual arts, and related areas of spatial design.

Alexandros Charidis

Design of Transfer Reinforcement Learning Mechanisms for Autonomous Collision Avoidance

It is often hard for a reinforcement learning (RL) agent to utilize previous experience to solve new similar but more complex tasks. In this research, we combine the transfer learning with reinforcement learning and investigate how the hyperparameters of both transfer learning and reinforcement learning impact the learning effectiveness and task performance in the context of autonomous robotic collision avoidance. A deep reinforcement learning algorithm was first implemented for a robot to learn, from its experience, how to avoid randomly generated single obstacles. After that the effect of transfer of previously learned experience was studied by introducing two important concepts, transfer belief—i.e., how much a robot should believe in its previous experience—and transfer period—i.e., how long the previous experience should be applied in the new context. The proposed approach has been tested for collision avoidance problems by altering transfer period. It is shown that transfer learnings on average had ~50% speed increase at ~30% competence levels, and there exists an optimal transfer period where the variance is the lowest and learning speed is the fastest.

Xiongqing Liu, Yan Jin

Design Cognition—Design Behaviors


Building a Social-Cognitive Framework for Design: Personality and Design Self-efficacy Effects on Pro-design Behaviors

The purpose of this work is to offer a framework that analogously considers factors significant for engineering design and industrial organization, borrowing from literature in domains of cognition and social theories. We conducted two studies: at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and University of Southern California, that allowed us to investigate personal, environmental, cognitive, and behavioral traits and processes, as affected by design self-efficacy, in engineering designers and non-technical designers in training. Through a social-cognitive framework for design, we explore the kind of influence that occurs among person, environment, and behavior reciprocally. We found that the rational mode of thinking was particularly highly associated with design self-efficacy, and intuitive mode particularly insufficiently associated with design self-efficacy. Design self-efficacy was further positively associated with big five personality conscientiousness, and highly negatively associated with neuroticism, where some significance is seen in specific correlations with design self-efficacy in personality domains. The comprehensive findings call for a repetition study and further theoretical considerations for findings in the framework’s domain.

Hristina Milojevic, Yan Jin

Cognitive Style and Field Knowledge in Complex Design Problem-Solving: A Comparative Case Study of Decision Support Systems

Cognitive differences between how people perceive and process information have been broadly studied in the fields of education and psychology. Previous findings show that comprehension is optimized when information presentation aligns with the cognitive abilities and preferences of an individual. On the other hand, the possession of field knowledge has also been studied to influence learning outcome and perception. This paper aims to understand the effects of individual’s information processing styles and field knowledge on design decision-making, specifically focusing on designer learning and user experience. Two distinct decision support systems interfaces were developed to better examine the effect using a mixed model design. A total of 48 college students participated in the experimental study and interacted with the two different interfaces of a satellite design system in a randomized order. Analysis results show significant impacts of field knowledge and visual processing style on both learning and user experience. Potential interaction effects with the design support system interface type and cognitive styles were also observed.

Yuan Ling Zi Shi, Hyunseung Bang, Guy Hoffman, Daniel Selva, So-Yeon Yoon

What Do Experienced Practitioners Discuss When Designing Product/Service Systems?

This paper presents empirical results aimed at increasing the understanding of conceptual activities of Product/Service Systems (PSS) design by experienced designers from industry. Results are derived from a protocol analysis of five PSS design sessions, using the Function–Behavior–Structure coding scheme. Sessions included five pairs of professional designers and the task was to redesign a concept for an existing PSS to improve its resource efficiency. The results show (i) the distribution of design issues during PSS design sessions, (ii) on average 47% of the overall cognitive design effort spent by the designers is related to behavior, and (iii) all the design issues except requirements are constantly focused on during the entirety of the design sessions. Major differences compared to product design are the average occurrence of function for PSS design (23%) for product design (4%) and of structure for PSS design (22%) compared to the product design (35%).

Abhijna Neramballi, Tomohiko Sakao, John S. Gero

Visual Behaviour During Perception of Architectural Drawings: Differences Between Architects and Non-architects

Architectural design is not just a technical process based on problem-solving and representation, but also a social process distributed between architect and non-architect stakeholders. In this study, visual behaviour differences between architects and non-architects during perception, interpretation and evaluation of architectural drawings are analysed. An eye tracking experiment was conducted on two groups of participants: 19 graduate-level students of the Department of Architecture and 19 students from other faculties. Eye tracking data were analysed according to three categories: means of gaze duration, gaze count and gaze plot patterns.

Canan Albayrak Colaço, Cengiz Acartürk

Design Grammars


On John Portman’s Atria: Two Exercises in Hotel Composition

Two formal exercises in hotel composition are presented. In both, the hospitality work of the architect John Portman is the focus. His language of hollow forms is addressed following his unique claim on the organizing principles found in his 1964 house, Entelechy I. The first exercise outlines a generative specification for his atrium hotel language in a parametric shape grammar informed by the logic of the house that generates an atrium hotel prototype. The second exercise speculates with a sketch on how transformation grammars can yield various configurations to explore Portman’s atrium hotel language for a series of initial shapes.

Heather Ligler, Athanassios Economou

Monitoring China’s City Expansion in the Urban–Rural Fringe: A Grammar for Binjiang District in Hangzhou

This study uses an analytical shape grammar to encode the general principles behind the structure of a fringe district and describe how a rural area evolved into an urban district. The study shows that both rural and urban development patterns rule-based and, therefore, urban growth could be regulated using synthetic grammars to control the transformation of rural into urban patterns.

Ruichen Ni, José P. Duarte

Composite Shape Rules

Generally, non-terminal symbols such as labeled points are used to constrain rule application and, thereby, guide rule selection in the application of shape grammars. However, distinguishing between salient rules that offer the user design choices and deterministic rules that together and in a certain order (mechanically) complete a specific design transformation, may require other means of guiding rule selection that better reflect on the logic of the rule derivation process. We present a concept of composite shape rules embedding algorithmic patterns for rule automation. We denote these composite shape rules flows, and adopt a notation from regular expressions. In this paper, we describe the context that led to the conception of this approach, describe the sequencing mechanisms, and present a case study. We conclude with a brief discussion disclosing additional potential of the notation.

Rudi Stouffs, Dan Hou

Shape Grammars as a Probabilistic Model for Building Type Definition and Computation of Possible Instances: The Case Study of Ancient Greek and Roman Libraries

This paper discusses a shape grammar for the reconstruction of archaeological building remains of ancient Greek and Roman libraries with metadata pointing to the evidence on which each rule is based.

Myrsini Mamoli

Grammars for Making Revisited

The domain of shape grammars has been recently extended to include the field of making. This paper examines what makes abstract shapes look like concrete spatial entities (things) and what changes to the shape grammar formalism are needed to support calculations with things. Several new grammars capable of handling things are developed. Algebras supporting these are briefly addressed as well.

Djordje Krstic

Design Processes


Rule-Based Systems in Adaptation Processes: A Methodological Framework for the Adaptation of Office Buildings into Housing

This paper proposes that conversion of redundant office buildings into housing is a viable strategy to respond to both structural vacancy and high demand for new dwellings at an affordable cost, which are widespread problems in the main urbanized contexts.

Camilla Guerritore, José P. Duarte

Using Argumentative, Semantic Grammar for Capture of Design Rationale

Efforts to use design rationale (DR) to improve design have been frustrated by difficulties in capturing such rationale in a format structured by a DR schema, such as PHI, QOC, or DRL. These difficulties disappear when rationale is captured as unstructured transcripts of communication among collaborating designers, but the lack of structure in such transcripts severely hinders retrieval. This problem can be solved by parsing transcripts of collaborative design using an argumentative, semantic grammar to produce PHI-structured DR. The ASGARD (Argumentative, Semantic Grammar for Analysis of Rationale for Design) software uses this technique to extract structured DR from transcripts of collaborative architectural design. Preliminary tests were made to see if ASGARD could successfully model and parse three collaborative design transcripts. Results of these tests suggest that this approach has promise for automating DR capture.

Raymond McCall

Identifying Design Rationale Using Ant Colony Optimization

Design rationale (DR), the reasons behind decisions made during design, can provide valuable insights into the decision-making process. This is especially valuable in software development, where systems are frequently repaired and extended over their lifetime.

Miriam Lester, Janet E. Burge

Biased Decision-Making in Realistic Extra-Procedural Nuclear Control Room Scenarios

In normal operations and emergency situations, operators of nuclear control rooms rely on procedures to guide their decision-making. However, in emergency situations, these procedures may be insufficient in guiding operators.

Emil Andersen, Igor Kozine, Anja Maier

Design Modelling


Modeling Collaboration in Parameter Design Using Multiagent Learning

This paper presents a model of collaboration in multidisciplinary engineering based on multiagent learning. Complex engineered systems are often designed through the collaboration of many designers or experts. A variety of frameworks have been presented and put in practice to help manage this collaboration, with good results; however, there have been few attempts to create an underlying model of collaboration.

Daniel Hulse, Kagan Tumer, Chris Hoyle, Irem Tumer

Exploring the Effect of Experience on Team Behavior: A Computational Approach

The paper presents the results of research aimed at contributing to a better understanding of the effect of team experience and learning on the performance of a design team. An agent-based model of the design team was developed, and computational simulations were utilized to study how agent’s knowledge changes by its use and what are the effects of such changes on the team behavior.

Marija Majda Perišić, Mario Štorga, John S. Gero

An Exploration of the Effects of Managerial Intervention on Engineering Design Team Performance

Engineering is often done in teams, but teams are not always efficient and maximally proficient. This work explores whether a portion of the resources used for solving a problem could instead be used to manage and control the design process of the remainder of a team. Consequently, this research begins to investigate whether a manager can improve the collective performance of engineering design teams.

Joshua T. Gyory, Jonathan Cagan, Kenneth Kotovsky

A Study in Function Modeling Preferences and its Variation with Designer Expertise and Product Types

This paper presents a preliminary study of modeler preferences while constructing function models of technical systems.

Xiaoyang Mao, Chiradeep Sen, Cameron Turner

Design and Visualization


Information Visualisation for Project Management: Case Study of Bath Formula Student Project

This paper contributes to a better understanding and design of dashboards for monitoring of engineering projects based on the projects’ digital footprint and user-centered design approach.

Nataliya Mogles, Lia Emanuel, Chris Snider, James Gopsill, Sian Joel-Edgar, Kevin Robinson, Ben Hicks, David Jones, Linda Newnes

A Visualization Tool to Investigate the Interplay of External and Internal Processes

This paper explores the potential of a newly devised visualization tool to facilitate empirical studies related to external and internal design processes.

Mia A. Tedjosaputro, Yi-Teng Shih

Visual Interactivity to Make Sense of Heterogeneous Streams of Design Activity Data

The goal of our project is to design computational environments to help understand or presume the origin, trajectories, or relationships of a certain part or aspect of an existing designed artifact.

Yasuhiro Yamamoto, Kumiyo Nakakoji

Style-Oriented Evolutionary Design of Architectural Forms Directed by Aesthetic Measure

This paper deals with an aesthetic and style-oriented approach to architectural design based on the combination of three theories—recognition, generation and evaluation.

Agnieszka Mars, Ewa Grabska, Grażyna Ślusarczyk, Barbara Strug

Creative Sketching Apprentice: Supporting Conceptual Shifts in Sketch Ideation

Sketching in design is typically a part of the ideation process. A common occurrence in sketching creativity is the conceptual shift, or when a drawn object is reinterpreted as belonging to a different object category.

Pegah Karimi, Kazjon Grace, Nicholas Davis, Mary Lou Maher


Additional information

Premium Partner

image credits