Assessing similarity between design ideas is an inherent part of many design evaluations to measure novelty. In such evaluation tasks, humans excel at making mental connections among diverse knowledge sets and scoring ideas on their uniqueness. However, their decisions on novelty are often subjective and difficult to explain. In this paper, we demonstrate a way to uncover human judgment of design idea similarity using two dimensional idea maps. We derive these maps by asking humans for simple similarity comparisons of the form “Is idea A more similar to idea B or to idea C?” We show that these maps give insight into the relationships between ideas and help understand the domain. We also propose that the novelty of ideas can be estimated by measuring how far items are on these maps. We demonstrate our methodology through the experimental evaluations on two datasets of colored polygons (known answer) and milk frothers (unknown answer) sketches. We show that these maps shed light on factors considered by raters in judging idea similarity. We also show how maps change when less data is available or false/noisy ratings are provided. This method provides a new direction of research into deriving ground truth novelty metrics by combining human judgments and computational methods.

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