Exploring designers’ encounters with unexpected inspirational stimuli

Kwon E, Rao V, and Goucher-Lambert K. 2022. Proceedings of Design, Computing and Cognition Conference 2022.


In prior work on designers’ search for inspirational stimuli, random dis- covery of stimuli through passive search processes has been underexplored. This paper primarily investigates how unintentionally discovered stimuli influence design outcomes, and why designers select these stimuli despite not meeting their initial expectations. In the present work, designers’ search for inspirational stimuli is explored through their use of a multi-modal search tool developed by our team. Fifteen designers used the search tool to find inspirational stimuli to solve an open-ended design challenge. During this study, many search results were found not to meet designers’ expectations. Nonetheless, designers incorporated a portion of these unexpected stimuli into their design ideas, resulting in the design outcomes: introduction of novel features, fulfillment of needs in an unanticipated way, and acceptance of readily available stimuli. This work suggests that encounters with unexpected stimuli can be beneficial, suggesting implications for future design tool development.