Exploring the use of Computational Technologies to assist designers in Creative Idea Generation


Background: Design creativity is the ability to generate ideas or products that are novel, useful and surprising. It is an integral part of design, which supports problem-solving, initiates innovation, closely relates to business commercial performance and increases a firm’s market share. Design creativity is often associated with idea generation, which is involved in the early stages of design. Although design relies upon the generation of alternative ideas, coming up with creative ideas is challenging.

Aim and Scope: Creativity tools and methods are often used to provoke designers to enhance the exploration of the design space, and thereby unlock creativity. For instance, conventional tools such as brainstorming, SCAMPER, TRIZ, and six thinking hats, as well as advanced ones such as the 77 design heuristics, bio-inspired design, and design-by-analogy. These methods and tools could help designers produces creative ideas which could not be generated based on their intuition. However, some of the tools are difficult to master, some are rather complex, and some require experienced knowledge. Besides, many designers prefer not to use idea generation methods or tools because of ‘seemingly cumbersome steps that create long bouts of work’. Doubt, ambiguity and lack of perseverance are the main factors why designers abandon creativity methods. In recent years, there is an increasing interest in developing computational tools to support design activities.

The overall research aim of this doctoral research project is to explore the use of computational technologies to assist designers in creative idea generation. You will need to investigate the characteristics of creative thinking in the process of producing new ideas; study theories of creativity, cognitions of creativity, and how the human mind and memory work. You will also need to investigate what types of computational technologies (such as data-mining, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, image processing and virtual reality) to use and how to apply them to support creative ideation. The outcome of this research will provide designers with new and efficient computational approaches, which are based on creative thinking, theories and cognitions, for assisting creative idea generation in new product design and development. It will provide new insights into research on design tools and idea generation tools.

Research Environment: You will work within a vibrant and rapidly growing community of researchers in the Division’s focus areas of Strategy and Policy innovation as well as Digital Innovation: Design Strategy and Design Management as well as Data-driven Design and Digital Technology. You will have the opportunity to work with the Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), the leading technology innovation centre for engineering development using Virtual Engineering technologies and expertise, which offers application of simulation and 3D immersive visualisation in support of product design. You will also have opportunities to collaborate with researchers from other institutions in UK, China and Singapore.

Required Skills: We are seeking candidates with a minimum of 2:1 (or equivalent) first degree in Design, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science & IT or a related subject. Experience in coding with Python and JavaScript is expected. Knowledge of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing is preferred. Good team-working and communication skills are essential.

How to Apply: Please apply through the University of Liverpool’s online system with a CV, a personal statement, and contact details for at least two academic references.


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The successful applicant will receive the School of Engineering Bursary award, consisting of tuition fee waiver for 3 years of the PhD programme.



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