Designing with LEGO: exploring low fidelity visualization as a trigger for student behavior change toward idea fluency

Charlie Ranscombe*, Katherine Bissett-Johnson, David Mathias, Boris Eisenbart, Ben Hicks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Novice design students struggle to engage with early stage design visualization tools such as sketching and prototyping. Instead students have a preference for designing with digital tools such as CAD modelling, motivated by inhibitions around sketching skill, which in turn leads to fixation and sunk cost effects. These behaviors present a barrier to engaging in typical practices of expert designers, namely idea fluency described as generating a wide range of ideas quickly and avoiding favoring one single idea. Noting the recent success of LEGO Serious Play in engaging non-designers in design activities in business and innovation contexts, we explore whether using LEGO as a visualization tool can trigger a behavior change in student designers towards idea fluency. This paper presents a study comparing student attitudes and design behavior when designing with LEGO, in comparison to sketching and cardboard modelling. Findings illustrate how LEGO’s comparative low fidelity leads to students to be more willing to change and modify initial ideas, reduces inhibitions related to visual quality, and reinterpret and iterate designs. Based on these findings we illustrate how designing with LEGO can mitigate issues of inhibition, fixation, and sunk cost design behaviors concluding that LEGO can trigger behavior change toward idea fluency. As such we see compelling evidence to integrate LEGO as an educational design activity for novice designers used early in the design process to illustrate and trigger idea fluency.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Technology and Design Education
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2019


  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Ideation
  • LEGO
  • Prototype
  • Sketch

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