Companies need to employ new design methods and tools to remain competitive in today’s global economy. Design methods are used to help teams move through the different stages of the design process, such as during project scoping, concept generation, and concept selection. Concept generation design methods are meant to help teams generate diverse, novel, and creative potential solutions. However, most design methods are developed and refined based on studies with student teams. This limits our understanding of how professionals engage with design methods in practice. This is a case study exploring the design methods used by three companies during the early stages of new product development. These companies are from the consumer electronics, footwear, and medical devices industries, and each design team within the companies was tasked with developing a new physical end product. We identified that all three teams heavily relied on internal and external benchmarking and reverse engineering design methods as part of concept generation. Ultimately, the products they developed were all considered evolutionary, meaning that the final product was a slightly improved version of similar products already on the market. This contrasts revolutionary products, which can change or disrupt the current field in one or more ways. This research contributes to design theory and methodology through empirically studying how companies engage in the design process, identifying the methods employed by professionals, and raising new questions about design methods, especially translation to industry. This research also contributes to design education by identifying methods that professionals use in practice, which can translate to direct recommendations for improving project-based engineering design courses.

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