Priming Designers Leads to Prime Designs

Jinjuan She, Carolyn Conner Seepersad, Katja Hölttä-Otto, Erin F. MacDonald

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterProfessional


Priming has been used by behavioral psychologists to discover many interesting findings regarding human judgments and decisions. This paper offers two studies and a literature review that highlight how designers use priming to fine-tune their skills. In the past, designers have used priming exercises to help them generate more features, novel features, and uncover latent customer needs during conceptualization. This paper presents two newer design methods that actively prime designers to exhibit or accentuate certain skills during the conceptual design process. They both use primes that require active participation from the subject and sensory/perceptual engagement. Study 1 uses priming to improve designers’ product-based communication abilities. Both a low-immersion implicit prime and a high-immersion implicit prime help designers generate more concepts. Additionally, the high-immersion prime leads to better communication of sustainability through the design. Study 2 fosters user-centered originality in design with an explicit priming technique of empathic lead users. This study finds that subjects in the high-immersion priming condition generate design concepts with higher levels of originality and more innovative features targeting product-user interactions, without loss in feasibility. Taken together with findings from other researchers, we conclude that both implicit and explicit priming are promising techniques that can be used to enhance design skills.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign Thinking Research
Subtitle of host publicationMaking Distinctions: Collaboration versus Cooperation
EditorsH Plattner, C Meinel, L Leifer
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-60967-6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
MoE publication typeD2 Article in professional manuals or guides or professional information systems or text book material

Publication series

NameUnderstanding Innovation
ISSN (Print)2197-5752
ISSN (Electronic)2197-5760


  • Priming
  • Conceptual design
  • Communication of sustainability
  • Product-user interaction
  • Sensory triggers


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