Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.8, 528-531
Published Online August 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Cultivating the College Students’ Creative Thinking in Industrial
Hua Cen1, Chuandong Ma2*
1The Engineering College of Sichuan Nor mal University, Chengdu, China
2The Fundam ental College of Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu , China
Email: *
Received June 5th, 2013; revised July 5th, 2013; accepted July 13th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Hua Cen, Chuandong Ma. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is p roperly cited.
This paper probes into the source of “originality” in developing the creative thinking of the science stu-
dents majoring in industrial design. The authors believe that the critical factors for the source of “origina-
lity” lie in not only the internal cause, but also the external cause. Whether the science students take a
great consideration of art and humanity courses, in other words, whether they are aware of the relation-
ship between artistical thou ght and industrial design o r not, it is very important. In addition, creative capac i-
ty cannot be taught, and it only results from inspiration and guidance of teachers from multidisciplinary.
Keywords: Creative Thinking; Artistic Thought; Industrial Design; Multi-Disciplinary
China (Mainland) Ministry of Education published and im-
plemented “the Undergraduate Specialty Catalogue of Higher
Institutions (New)” in 2012, in which it clearly stated that, the
specialty: Industrial Design, remains in the enginery specialty
included in Engineering, mainly enrolling science students, and
arts students will be included in the newly-set Art Specialty:
Product Design. Most of the science students who major in
Industrial Design are excellent in logical deduction but poor in
creative thinking needed for their specialty, therefore, it is ur-
gent to rearrange courses for the science students in order to
improve their creative thinking.
The Industrial Design Specialty and Product Design Spe-
cialty including in Engineering or Arts have developed for
more or less twenty years in China, so their curriculum systems
are much of a muchness. The core courses for both of them
consist of three parts: basic modeling courses, design funda-
mental courses and specialty design courses, only with slight
differences in the percentages of general education courses,
specialized courses and practical courses.
The author is convinced that the reason why the science stu-
dents are poor in originality and expression is not because of
the differences in the percentage of the courses, but because of
the internal cause and external cause listed as follow: First, as
far as the students themselves are concerned, the science stu-
dents pay little attention to the relationship between artistical
thought and creative design of the industrial products, as a re-
sult they neglect the study of the basic modeling courses, which
in fact is the most important way in cultivating the artistical
thought of the science students; Second, as far as the teachers
are concerned, the inspiration and guidance of the teachers are
also of critical importance. Teachers should make the students
aware of the fact that art and humanity courses underlie their
specialty design courses. In addition, in the process of teaching,
teachers should bring in interactive teaching model, introducing
comprehensive contents from multi-disciplinary so that the stu-
dents can get to know better the knowledge of each course.
Only in this way can the teachers inspire the creative thinking
of the students.
The Relationship between Artistical Thought
and Creative Design of Industrial Products
If we want to make the science students interested in art
courses and help them realize their importance and the rela-
tionship between artistical thought and creative design of in-
dustrial products, we should first of all make clear the field and
ultimate goal they focus on. Art is unconstrained and un-nor-
malized, and it aims to express self aspiration through certain
art forms, such as, graphic art, stereoscopic art or behavior. On
the contrary, industrial design aims to solve the problem be-
tween human, machine and environment, so industrial design is
rational, constrained and normalized, a process of the applica-
tion of the intersection of multi-disciplinary. Artistical thought
provides to creative industrial design rich thinking and broad
space, while creative industrial de sign brings to artistical thought
sophisticated means in art innovation. We can represent their
relationship as follow (see Figure 1).
Thinking includes logical thinking and illogical thinking, just
like the “engine” of originality with different functions. Logical
thinking is a process of induction, deduction, analysis, abstrac-
tion and integration, while illogical thinking is the thinking
forms of instinct, inspiration, imagination and association. Ima-
ginal thinking originates from illogical thinking so as to form
clues for innovation. When crisscross clues rush into our mind,
we explore the relation among the clues by using our logical
*Corresponding author.
H. CEN, C. D. MA
Figure 1.
The relationship between artistical thinking and the creativ e design.
thinking in order to find out the regularity, induct or deduct the
target creative point (Chang Shubing & He Anhua, 2006). For
example, before we position our product design, too much in-
formation gathered from the market research confuse us and we
do not know how to deal with it. Then, only when we have a
clear thinking can we induce the information, improve our
analysis, find out the problems, make clear the primary and
secondary relation of the problems, and finally make a correct
judgment and hit the target design. After positioning the design,
we should set to solve the following problem: how to meet the
need of everybody with the means others have never thought of.
This is what the creative thinking or imaginal thinking aims to
do. Thus it is self-evident that logical thinking and illogical
think play different roles in design, which proves the comple-
mentarity of art and science in industrial design.
Art aims at aesthetic appreciation and art expresses one’s
spiritual feeling. The creation of art image comes from imaginal
thinking, that is, illogical thinking. Imaginal thinking is a unity
of intuition, imagination and emotion. Einstein once said, “I
believe in intuition and inspiration... Imagination is more im-
portant than knowledge, because knowledge is limited, but
imagination summarizes everything in the world, driving the
progress, and is the source of knowledge evolution. Strictly
speaking, the imagination is a real factor in scientific research.”
(Xu Liangying & Fan Dainian, 1976). It is one of the most im-
portant ways for us to develop the students’ sensitivity in ima-
ginal thinking and improve their ability in industrial design in-
novation. Industrial design is a multi-disciplinary based on
science, technology and humanistic spirit, including innova-
tion in function and modeling. It reflects the unity of function
and modeling. The function of a product contains two aspects:
spiritual and functional, and both of them are embodied in its
modeling. The innovation of aesthetic modeling is realized
through our imaginal thinking. For example, in courses for
sketch and color, we are trained in our visual observation and
expression. When observing people, scenery and substance in
the process of painting, we should turn from one angle to an-
other so as to get a deeper understanding of the object, and
grasp the nature of it. Everything exists in the universe as a
system, like an organic integrity consisting of multi-perspective
and multi-leveled factors relating with each other, depending on
each other and restricting each other. Innovators thus need to
ponder things in the system, taking all the analysis and synthe-
sis on multi-perspective and multi-levels into consideration, so
as to find out the inner links related. Innovators cannot observe
a thing in isolation with one certain way of thinking, but they
need to use various ways of thinking to make the modeling
factors united and changeable. Only in this way can the inno-
vators express the human factors (cultural, psychological, phy-
siological) through forms from the social aspect. In the tradi-
tional art constitution course, thought training in the spatial
distribution of point, line and plane is the core means in product
modeling innovation. For example, when we are creating the
model of a product, we do addition or substraction to get the
shape by means of segmentation in the three-dimentional com-
position and accumulation of basic forms. This shape should
not only embody our design philosophy, but also follow the
universal law for beauty, that is, beauty in harmony. In creating
inner beauty in harmony, we can make use of the techniques in
constitution course, such as the repeated combination of the
identical unit shapes, or constitution of ordered space with dif-
ferent shapes. The color expression, the coordination for the
proportional relation and material selection for different prod-
ucts reflect the quality of the designer in the aesthetic taste and
sensitivity in market observation, and the improvement of this
kind of quality usually depends on the imaginal thinking. For
example, from the improvement of cellphone showed in the
following pictures (see Figure 2), we can clearly see the better
visualization of the product with the development of the society
and the change of the aesthetic idea. That is the materialization
of imaginal thinking in the industrial design.
In the process of designing, what we need is not only the
good design philosophy, but also effective ways of expression,
by means of hand-made drawing or computer aided design,
which is in itself a process of thinking innovation. We should
inherit the present painting skills, and at the same time, take the
characteristics of the time into consideration so as to create
more fresh and alive ways of expression. Why not blend the
expression skills used in cartoon, or the traditional paper cut
arts, or the performa nce techniques used by Clay Figurine Zhang
in the product expression to blaze a trail for that in product
design? Thoughts on these display the art re-creation. People
have a common sense on beauty, thus it is universal in the in-
novation for product design for the aesthetic principle, way of
thinking and pattern of manifestation researched on in the ima-
ginal thinking.
Creative thinking is more complicated in exploring things
unknown, and it is the dialectical unity of divergent thinking
and convergent thinking. It is a dynamic integration of creative
imagination and reality orientation, and a unity of opposites of
abstract thinking and convergent thinking. Creative thinking,
initiative and original, can reveal the law and nature of objec-
tive reality and bring about novel, unique fruits of social mean-
ings, through which we can open up a new field for human
The differences of the ultimate goal between imaginal think-
ing and industrial design innovation lead to their diversities.
First, design itself is a creative activity when human beings
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 529
H. CEN, C. D. MA
(a) (b)
Figure 2.
(a) Cellphone in ear ly; (b) Iphone at present .
conceive to remake the nature and society. Industrial designers
aim at making clear the relation between people, machine, and
environment so as to make the product meet the people’s need
for material and for spirit as well. Therefore, product innova-
tion requires the perfect combination of techniques and arts,
guided by the market, surpassing the trend and providing
healthy living ways for people of today and tomorrow (Li
Yanzu, 2005). We can say that the innovative thinking for
products is both objective and subjective. Second, when we
come to product innovation, we must find out the main factors
which effect product innovation in order to distinguish it from
imaginal thinking. The starting-point of product innovation is to
find the potential need of human beings, in another word, it is
people oriented, while imaginal thinking is only one means to
realize the innovation. Industrial design thoughts are practical-
minded, seeking for the need of the society and the disparity
between people’s ideal and reality. We should broaden our
thoughts to meet the needs of the society, because there are
various needs, some obvious and some recessive. The obvious
needs are easy to see and we can try to find way to meet the
needs that everybody thinks of through innovation thinking,
while the recessive needs cannot be uncovered without creative
discovery. Imaginal thinking can aids product designers to be-
come not only the explorers of developing science and tech-
nology, but and at the same time, the labor force for the appli-
cation of the new technology. The development product design
is a course set for the students majoring in industrial design,
which aims at making use of new technology to provide sup-
port for developing new products.
Only dreams can push us to a new starting point. The Wright
brothers set us a very good example, who succeeded in apply-
ing the research findings in aero-dynamics and realized the
dreams of human beings, flying to the sky one hundred years
ago. Figure 3 shows the first plane made by the Wright brother s.
And the dream also blazed a trail for the development of aero-
Intelligence comes next. It is generally agreed that those who
are mentally handicapped may become a great artist, but this is
not true for an industrial designer. Design is to solve problems,
requiring one’s capability in logical judgment and needed
knowledge. Just as the logical thinking mentioned above, it is
one of the embodiment of design capability, requiring one’s
ability in induction, deduction, analysis, abstraction and syn-
thesis. Imaginal thinking allows one person to express his own
idea and display his personality, but product innovation serves
for the broad masses of people, it is a creative activity for the
whole society.
Figure 3.
The first plane made by the Wright brothers.
Suggestions on the Curriculum and Teaching
Model for Students of Industrial Design
We, as the educators or designers of industrial design, should
keep pace with the time in the ways of thinking and combine
technology with humane spirit, because our worldview and
values directly decide our creative thinking and the social and
economic benefits of the product. In a word, artistical thinking
centers on imaginal thinking, while industrial design innovation
depends on logical thinking aided by imaginal thinking (Li
Yanzu, 2005).
The basic courses for industrial design include humanistic
quality education and professional quality education. At present,
teaching and evaluation criterion for majors in design in col-
leges in China (Mainland) are simple and one-dimentional.
Students are only offered several integrated courses and art
courses, and administrators neglect the continuity, relevance
and enlightenment of each course, which is surely not in ac-
cordance with the characteristics of industrial design, the com-
bination of technology and art. The authors suggest that courses
for humanistic quality education should be arranged together
with the design courses. For example, when we are teaching
students the tourism product design, administrators for indus-
trial design department should invite those teaching history,
business or literatures to give lectures to the science students
majoring in industrial design to enrich their knowledge and
broaden their view. This can not only help them to learn a lot
from the history, but also inspire the students’ creative thinking
to explore the potential market for tourism products so as to
make serial products typical of Chinese culture. They can de-
sign series of products typical of Chinese culture, as shown in
the following two products designed by the students: (Figures
4 and 5).
This product “檐伞” (Yan umbrella in English) is the im-
proved version of the Chinese traditional oil papered umbrella.
” has the same pronunciation with “yan, which means
prolong life, and “” also means family or home. The im-
proved version made the oil papered umbrella smaller and
much easier to carry, really representing the developmental
heritage of Chinese culture.
影砚” is a tourism product called inkstone, which is de-
signed according to the local architectural feature and the ink-
stone, a cultural symbol in China, representing the traditional
architectural feature of Hong Cun (a small village in Anhui
Province in China). Chinese ink reflects the white wall and
black tiles, forming a delightful contrast for the calligraphers.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
H. CEN, C. D. MA
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 531
When teachers introduce such courses as transportation tools
or product development and design, they can invite teachers in
biological science or geographic or resources science. The re-
search field of biological science can lead the students to view
the development of human being and nature in the future. The
structures of living things can draw the students’ attention to
the innovation of product structure and function. The knowl-
edge system of geography and resources science can also trig-
ger students’ interest in ecological design. The exploration of
the interactive teaching of multi-disciplinary can not only make
the teaching of speciality courses reach a perfect combination
of technology and art, but also effectively develop the students’
creative thinking, a kind of all-direction divergent thinking.
The construction of the innovative thinking courses for in-
dustrial design depends not on the courses for design thinking,
design principles or design psychology, but on the embodiment
of the dialectic relation of internal cause, or in other words, the
students subjective cognizance on the humane and art courses,
and the external cause, that is, the proper guidance of the tea-
chers. Creative capability cannot be taught, and it can only be
gained in the process of inspiration and proper guidance of the
teachers. If science and technology is the means for innovation,
then humane spirit provides it direction of development, the
most important source for innovation.
Figure 4.
“Yan” Umbrella (Designer: Liu Yinjie,
Luo Yunhao).
Chang, S. B., & He, A. H. (2006). Creation originates from illogical
thinking. Frontier, 4.
Li, L. S. (2005). Industrial design psychology. Beijing: Higher Educa-
tion Press.
Li, Y. Z. (2005). Arts and scien ce. Beijing: Tsinghua University Press .
Xu, L. Y., & Fan, D. N. (1976). Einstein’s collections. Beijing: The
Commercial Press.
Figure 5.
Ying Inkstone (Designer: S on g S hun ing).