The conventional prescriptive and descriptive models of design typically decompose the overall design process into elementary processes, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This study revisits some of the assumptions established by these models and investigates whether they can also be applied for modelling of problem-solution co-evolution patterns that appear during team conceptual design activities. The first set of assumptions concerns the relationship between performing analysis, synthesis, and evaluation and exploring the problem and solution space. The second set concerns the dominant sequences of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, whereas the third set concerns the nature of transitions between the problem and solution space. The assumptions were empirically tested as part of a protocol analysis study of team ideation and concept review activities. Besides revealing inconsistencies in how analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are defined and interpreted across the literature, the study demonstrates co-evolution patterns, which cannot be described by the conventional models. It highlights the important role of analysis-synthesis cycles during both divergent and convergent activities, which is co-evolution and refinement, respectively. The findings are summarised in the form of a model of the increase in the number of new problem and solution entities as the conceptual design phase progresses, with implications for both design research and design education.
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