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Information for inspiration: Understanding architects' information seeking and use behaviors to inform design

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Abstract

Architectural design projects are heavily reliant on electronic information seeking. However, there have been few studies on how architects look for and use information on the Web. We examined the electronic information behavior of 9 postgraduate architectural design and urban design students. We observed them undertake a self-chosen, naturalistic information task related to one of their design projects and found that although the architectural students performed many similar interactive information behaviors to academics and practitioners in other disciplines, they also performed behaviors reflective of the nature of their domain. The included exploring and encountering information (in addition to searching and browsing for it) and visualizing/appropriating information. The observations also highlighted the importance of information use behaviors (such as editing and recording) and communication behaviors (such as sharing and distributing) as well as the importance of multimedia materials, particularly images, for architectural design projects. A key overarching theme was that inspiration was found to be both an important driver for and potential outcome of information work in the architecture domain, suggesting the need to design electronic information tools for architects that encourage and foster creativity. We make suggestions for the design of such tools based on our findings.

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