Numerous examples of innovation through analogy are found throughout current trade journals, magazines and product offerings. Design-by-analogy is a powerful tool in creative design, but generally relies on unproven, ad-hoc approaches. Although a few notable computational knowledge bases have been created to support analogous design, very few methods provide suitable guidance on how to identify analogies and analogous domains. This paper presents a novel approach, referred to as the WordTree Design-by-Analogy Method, for identifying analogies as part of the ideation process. The WordTree Method derives its effectiveness through a design team’s knowledge and readily available information sources but does not require specialized computational knowledge bases. A controlled experiment and an evaluation of the method with redesign projects illustrate the method’s influence in assisting engineers in design-by-analogy. Unexpected and unique solutions are identified using the method. The experimental results also highlight potential improvements for the method and areas for future research in engineering design theory.

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