Searching for biological analogies appropriate for design problems is a core process of biologically inspired design (BID). Through in situ observations of student BIDs, we discovered that student designers struggle with two issues that bookend the problem of search: design problem formulation, which generates the set of conditions to be used for search; and evaluation of the appropriateness of the retrieved analogies, which depends both on problem formulation and the retrieved analogy. We describe a method for problem formulation and analogy evaluation in BID that we call the Four-Box method. We show that the Four-Box method can be rapidly and accurately used by designers for both problem formulation and analogy evaluation, and that designers find the method valuable for the intended tasks.

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