This paper presents the results of a protocol study which compares designers’ behavior in a parametric design environment (PDE) and a geometric modeling environment (GME). An experiment was conducted in which seven designers were required to complete two architectural conceptual design tasks with similar complexity respectively in a PDE and GME. Protocol analysis is employed to compare the cognitive behavior of designers in these two environments. By analyzing the designers’ actions, including shifting between “problem” and “solution” spaces, it was possible to compare their cognitive activities in PDEs and GMEs. Results of this research suggest that designers put similar effort into the design problem space and the solution space in PDE and GME and that interaction between these two spaces also appears similar in the two design environments. However, different Problem-Solution index values and discontinuity ratios are found across design stages of the two design environments.
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