How Task Constraints Affect Inspiration Search Strategies

Michael Mose Biskjær, Bo Christensen, Morten Friis-Olivarius, Sille J. J. Abildgaard, Caroline Lundquist, Kim Halskov

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Searching for sources of inspiration is central to creative design; however, we have limited knowledge of individual inspiration search strategies in response to varying levels of task constraints. We studied 39 high-school students’ inspiration search strategies using Google Images. Low task constrainedness led to divergent search marked by quick iterations, limited design task usage, and a heterogeneous image set. Intermediate constrainedness prompted in-depth, on-task exploration characterized by slow and careful iterations with more search result examination, extensive design task usage, and homogenous images. High constrainedness led to flexible bracketing with quick, flexible design task use, ending with heterogeneous images. Images from the intermediately and highly constrained conditions generated more ideas and were perceived as more inspiring (relative to low) in a new group of students. We discuss the idea of a ‘sweet spot’ of constrainedness in an inspiration search process in design and consider implications for design research and future work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Technology and Design Education
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)101-125
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 8. February 2019


  • Sources of inspiration
  • Search strategy
  • Constraints
  • Google Images
  • Quantitative study
  • Sweet spot

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