The School of Design has been providing a design subject for engineering students since 1998. The subject aims at enriching students' experience in creative thinking, as well other design activities. Through project activities, each student attending the subject is required to initiate a design idea, and later to put the idea into practice. The first evaluation of the subject was conducted in 1999. The results show that engineering students, who normally tackle problems pre-defmed by teachers/supervisors or with only limited choices, find it difficult to initiate "creative" ideas without a direction and well- defined scope. Thus, in 1999/2000, instead of designing and innovating objects without any guidelines or boundaries, or, on the contrary, being provided with fixed/limited topics, the students were encouraged to respect cultures and users' practices in order to identify needs and opportunities, and then develop their ideas. The results of the subject evaluation in 2000 indicate that respecting cultures and users' practices is a good direction and scope set for students to carry out creativity activities, particularly for those students without much experience in initiating creative ideas. On the one hand, it allows students a certain degree of guidance in initiating ideas. On the other hand, it does not limit the possibility for students to initiate and develop their ideas, as "cultures and users' practices" is a dynamic everyday life topic which allows students much flexibility to investigate and explore, and a good basis for generating ideas. This paper explains the concept of respecting cultures and users' practice, and the rationale underlying student creativity activities. By illustrating some of the students' work and the results of evaluations, the paper discusses the advantages and limitations of this kind of idea initiation activities for students in general and for engineering students in particular.