An Interdisciplinary Approach for Understanding Information Utilization in Engineering and Product Design

Youyi Bi, Purdue University


Human-centered design requires thorough understanding of people (e.g. customers, designers, engineers) in order to better satisfy the needs and expectations of all stakeholders in the design process. Designers are able to create better products by incorporating customers' subjective evaluations on products. Engineers can also build better tools for designers by obtaining their information utilization patterns. However, several fundamental aspects of people's using information in engineering design still lack for deep understanding. In this research, an interdisciplinary approach is proposed, and four empirical studies were conducted. These studies provided more comprehensive understanding of how people utilize information in engineering and product design from three aspects. First, I investigated how people use visual information in engineering problem solving and decision making by eye-tracking technology with two empirical studies. The results of these two studies imply that eye gaze data has the potential to serve as a diagnostic tool to discern how people use information in engineering design contexts. Visual attention patterns may also provide insights to improve the design of products and systems. Also, I conducted an auditory perceptual test to investigate the interaction of using both visual and auditory information in product sound evaluation. In this test, people were presented with a current sound, a very different sound, and something in between the two under different contexts. Different forms of visual contextual information (pictures and text) were provided to participants. Complicated interactions between participants' using visual and auditory information were found. This study may also shed light on how to integrate millennials' preferences into the design of future product sounds. Furthermore, I investigated how people's information use changes with time. A within-subjects survey was conducted in 2009 to investigate how people evaluated different vehicle silhouettes on scales including Perceived Environmental Friendliness, Safety, Familiarity and Overall Preference. This survey was repeated in 2016. The changing trend of participants' evaluations on car shapes over 7 years were found and analyzed. These results imply that subjective product evaluations have their own periods of validity. In summary, this research showed how to apply the methods and theories from different disciplines into design research, and contributed to better understanding of people's using information in engineering and product design.




Reid, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Engineering|Mechanical engineering|Information science

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