Design-by-analogy, including bio-inspired design, is a powerful tool for innovation and engineers need better tools to enhance ideation. To support tool creation, an exploratory cross-sectional empirical product study of 70 analogy-inspired products is conducted to report trends and associations among factors in the analogy-inspired design process, giving a general account of real-world practices. Products are randomly sampled from three technology magazines and a bioinspired design database. Seven variables are developed and used to classify each example according to design team composition, analogy mapping approach, analogies used, and design outcomes. Results suggest few differences between problem-driven approaches, which start from a design problem and find solutions in analogous domains, and solution-driven approaches, which begin with knowledge in an analog domain and find design problems to solve. For instance, results suggest that both approaches yield products at about the same frequency, and both yield products with improved performance at statistically-indistinguishable rates — thus, neither approach can be presently concluded to be advantageous over the other for improving product performance. Overall, few associations are detected between design outcome variables and other variables, thus precluding recommendations for how to compose design teams, what approaches to promote, and what number and source of analogies to support in order to achieve the outcomes measured in this study.

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