The effects of representation mode on conceptual coherence in the design of physical products

DS 94: Proceedings of the Design Society: 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED19)

Year: 2019
Editor: Wartzack, Sandro; Schleich, Benjamin; Gon
Author: Trinh, Yen Mai Thi; Elverum, Christer Westum
Series: ICED
Institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Section: Design methods and tools
DOI number:
ISSN: 2220-4342


Coherence is important in the design of products, because it makes them easier to understand for their users. Designers can use different representation modes to express ideas about coherence. However, perception of a representation can be influenced by its mode. Therefore, designers must be aware of the influences that different representation modes can have on perception of coherence.

The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of experienced modality on perception of conceptual coherence. In the study, participants were divided into two conditions for two representation modes: written word and physical object, both representing the same concepts. Each participant was presented with the concepts as words or objects and asked to list the properties of each concept. The results showed that between the two conditions, frequencies of responses were similar while frequencies of response contents were dissimilar and sometimes contrary. The main findings suggest that the effects of the modalities, written word and physical object, do not differ significantly for mental activity, but do differ considerably for semantic processing in ways that has implications for design.

Keywords: Design engineering, Design practice, Design methods, Design representation


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