Investigating the process, design outputs and neurocognitive differences between prototyping activities with physical and digital Lego

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: McClenaghan, Adam; Goudswaard, Mark; Hicks, Ben
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Bristol
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 2365-2374
DOI number:


Design neurocognition is an emerging research area that can provide insights into the black box of designers’ cognitive processes. However, work to date has focused on neurocognition on its own, without integrating this with other design measures.

This paper presents the results of a pilot study which brings together designer neurocognition with design output and assessment of the design process followed in a constrained prototyping activity comparing use of physical and digital Lego. This was achieved via EEG data capture, a TLX survey and measures of design output variance.

Differences between physical and digital prototyping methods were found with respect to Task Related Powers of EEG signals and the design process followed with digital prototyping methods found to take longer, require more effort and cause more frustration. No differences were found with regard to design output.

Whilst the sample size used (n=12) was small, future studies will use large sample sizes to increase their statistical power and will consider alternative EEG or fNIRS to capture brain activity due to challenges with the headset used in this study.

Keywords: Design cognition, Design methods, Neurocognition, Prototyping, Human behaviour in design

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