This paper presents an explorative-based computational methodology to aid the analogical retrieval process in design-by-analogy practice. The computational methodology, driven by Non-negative Matrix Factorization (NMF), iteratively builds a hierarchical repositories of design solutions within which clusters of design analogies can be explored by designers. In the work, the methodology has been applied on a large repository of mechanical design related patents, processed to contain only component-, behavior-, or material-based content, to demonstrate that unique and valuable attribute-based analogical inspiration can be discovered from different representations of patent data. For explorative purposes, the hierarchical repositories have been visualized with a three-dimensional hierarchical structure and two-dimensional bar graph structure, which can be used interchangeably for retrieving analogies. This paper demonstrates that the explorative-based computational methodology provides designers an enhanced control over design repositories, empowering them to retrieve analogical inspiration for design-by-analogy practice.

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