Cognitive styles of designer studied by EunJin

EunJin Kim, a Ph.D. candidate of color lab published an article entitled “Cognitive styles in design problem solving: Insights from network-based cognitive maps” in Design Studies. This study was originally conducted during her master period at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology(UNIST), and Professor KwanMyung Kim was her supervisor as well as a co-author of the article. She investigated the cognitive styles of designers using a protocol study. In order to describe and support the analysis of encoded protocols, a new graphical representation called a cognitive map was devised adopting the concept of a network. Through analyzing the cognitive maps of 24 participants, four cognitive styles were identified: Focused probers, Treasure hunters, Selectors, and Explorers.


This study aims at understanding the cognitive styles of designers from the point of view of precedent utilization and idea generation. A protocol study was conducted with 24 masters students majoring in industrial design. To analyze verbal protocols, this study devised a new way of describing cognitive processes called ‘cognitive map.’ It supports intuitive interpretations of a cognitive process while visualizing its comprehensive structure with rich relationships among encoded items. Based on cognitive maps, three phases of the design process were identified, and the cognitive styles of each participant were derived through integrating the cognitive styles of each phase. As a result, four types of cognitive style – Focused probers, Treasure hunters, Selectors, and Explorers – were identified and described.

Full text in Design Studies