Design variation through richness of rules embedded in LEGO bricks

David Mathias*, Duncan Boa, Ben Hicks, Chris Snider, Peter Bennett, Colin Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

6 Citations (Scopus)
79 Downloads (Pure)


Design rules govern the design process by imposing constraints on the development of a product. Examples of design rules include engineering standards, regulations, standard operating procedures and existing designs as protected by patents. They have the potential to over-constrain the design space and impact innovation. In this paper, an exploratory study is reported that investigates the link between richness of design rules and the resulting design variation in a LEGO model. Design rule richness describes the quantity and explicitness of constraints relating to a design. Design rules, relating to a model of a simple spaceship, were embedded in individual LEGO bricks. Twenty participants were tasked with constructing the spaceship while adhering to the set design rules. There were four levels of design rule richness and the participants constructed a model for each level. Measuring the design variation through Design Structure Matrices revealed that the richness of the design rules only had a significant effect on the design variation between the least and most rich design rules. This suggests that a point exists at which the richness of design rules limit design variation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication21st International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2017
Subtitle of host publicationUniversity of British Columbia (UBC) Campus, Vancouver; Canada; 21 August 2017 through 25 August 2017
Number of pages10
Volume8: Human Behaviour in Design
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017

Publication series

ISSN (Print)2220-4334


  • Construction kits
  • Embedded rules
  • Human behaviour in design
  • Innovation
  • Requirements


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