Computer tools for embodiment and detailed engineering design (computer-aided design (CAD)) evolved rapidly in the past 35 years and are now pervasive throughout the industry. But todays commercial CAD is geometry-centric, not appropriate for early stages of design when detailed geometry and dimensions are not known. This paper describes a framework and a set of interconnected tools for conceptual design. In this system, a broad range of intuitive and experiential concept generation methods have been operationalized and implemented as databases, artifact repositories, knowledge bases, and interactive procedures to promote divergent thinking. The so-called “Design Ideator” includes methods for flexible and dynamic design problem formulation, re-formulation, and restructuring in the form of hierarchical and re-configurable morphological charts. This tool has been continuously enhanced through three phases of user studies and feedback. The main contributions of this work are as follows. First, this research has created a holistic framework with interlaced knowledge bases from a wide range of methods, as opposed to past research that have relied on single experiential only method. Second, we have formulated algorithms to support several intuitive methods, such as contextual shifting, analogical reasoning, provocative stimuli, and combinatorial play.

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