Concept generation techniques can help to support designers in generating multiple ideas during design tasks. However, differences in the ways these techniques guide idea generation are not well understood. This study investigated the qualities of concepts generated by beginning engineering designers using one of three different idea generation techniques. Working individually on an open-ended engineering design problem, 102 first year engineering students learned and applied one of three different ideation techniques—design heuristics, morphological analysis, or individual brainstorming (using brainstorming rules to generate ideas working alone)—to a given design problem. Using the consensual assessment technique, all concepts were rated for creativity, elaboration, and practicality, and all participants' concept sets were rated for quantity and diversity. The simplest technique, individual brainstorming, led to the most concepts within the short (25 minute) ideation session. All three techniques produced creative concepts averaging near the scale midpoint. The elaboration of the concepts was significantly higher with design heuristics and morphological analysis techniques, and the practicality was significantly higher using design heuristics. Controlling for number of concepts generated, there were no significant differences in diversity of solution sets across groups. These results demonstrate that the use of design heuristics does not limit the creativity of ideation outcomes, and helps students to develop more elaborate and practical ideas. Design heuristics show advantages in the initial idea generation phase for beginning engineering students. These findings point to specific strengths in different ideation techniques, and the value of exposing beginning designers to multiple techniques for idea generation.

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