A modular design tool for visualizing complex multiscale systems

Paul Egan, Jonathan Cagan, Christian Schunn, Philip Leduc

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As engineers design ever more complex systems, such as bionanotechnology, it is particularly difficult for engineers to navigate the influences of parameters to design across multiple scales. We introduce a software tool that contains graphical interface modules that display multiple inputs and outputs simultaneously in real-time, across multiple scales of interest. To assess the utility of real-time feedback in the tool, the tool is validated through user studies involving counterbalanced sequences of optimization tasks with varying complexity and either real-time or delayed feedback. Real-time feedback consistently improved a user's ability to find better designs and the benefit increased as task complexity grew. Our scientific contribution is a greater understanding of how users search and understand complex design spaces. Users in the real-time condition were made fewer changes to designs each iteration and identifying such strategies could inform agent-based algorithms. Findings aid complex systems applications including virtual experiments, reverse engineering, and scientific discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 19th International Conference on Engineering Design
Subtitle of host publicationDesign for Harmonies, ICED 2013
Number of pages12
Volume9 DS75-09
StatePublished - 2013
Event19th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2013 - Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Aug 19 2013Aug 22 2013


Conference19th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2013
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


  • Cognitive study
  • Complexity
  • GUI
  • Myosin


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