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Creative reductionism: How decreasing levels of information can stimulate designers imagination

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This paper reports on research that investigates how reduced information of an object may stimulate design students’ creative imagination processes. Humans have the ability to recognise the meaning and to generate a complete image of an object as a representation from an incomplete image, as long as appropriate visual clues are given. If an incomplete state of an object can prompt design students to visualise ‘representation completeness’, element reduction might be utilised as a trigger for further creative imagination. In order to understand the behaviour of design students towards the proposed reductive approaches, two experiments have been conducted with industrial design students at Northumbria University School of Design. In the first experiment, the researchers observed how the design students developed their object imagination using images of an object whose quality was reduced in a variety of ways. In a second experiment, we observed how the imagination process of the design students was affected by reducing the elements of material and composition information of an object. This second experiment was conducted using scaled-down components of Gerrit Rietveld’s famous Red and Blue Chair designed in 1917. These two experiments have revealed patterns of imagination processes that design students follow when they are given reduced levels of information. By understanding the nature of reductionism in design better, we may be able to develop a series of reductive techniques that will enhance the design student’s imagination and stimulate their creativity.