Designing is a skill central to many human tasks. Designers are constantly producing newer and better artifacts, generating innovative solutions to problems in our world. This paper looks at innovation, and research that is aimed at developing theories and methodologies for innovative design. We view design as a process of association and exploration. These two approaches are fundamental to innovation. The aim of exploration is to generate a large variety of design alternatives by breaking away from the norms by looking in unlikely places, and by relaxing binding constraints. Exploration exposes possibilities that would not normally hâve been considered, possibilities that may serendipitously lead to innovative solutions. Association, on the other hand, attempts to exploit previous design experiences in a new design context. This is donc by recognizing useful analogies that can help in synthesizing parts of a design, recognizing unforeseen problems, and discovering opportunities. This paper is the first part of a two-part paper that presents and discusses a variety of association and exploration methods. This part examines association-based techniques, some of which have been used in actual design Systems, and others that point to the solution of some open questions in design research. We develop these ideas by examining connections between design research and other disciplines such as cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, the history of science, and the creativity literature.