This paper refers to a research project that we are conducting about the formalization of the designer's
cognitive activity in order to develop new computational tools to support the early design process. These
tools are especially focused on the inspirational phase of design. We first formalized the cognitive processes
of the designers dedicated to our specific phase, and identified some routine parts where computational
tools could be useful in order to enrich the traditional design process. The computation of design rules in the
early phases of design needs to establish specific formalizations that can be implemented by algorithms.
After modelling designers' cognitive processes, we explored the main information systems they use and
completed them by an investigation about Content-Based Image Retrieval systems (CBIR). Our research
consisted then in establishing specific formalizations in order to cope with recent technologies that could
improve the precision and efficiency with which designers can access inspirational images.