Design Ideation: The Conceptual Sketch in a Digital Design Culture

Jonson, Ben. 2004. Design Ideation: The Conceptual Sketch in a Digital Design Culture. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Design ideation, or the generating and developing of design ideas is central to designing in both education and practice. But what is the impact of digital technology on conceptual tools, notably the traditional pen and paper sketch?

Initial research, in the Introduction highlights how freehand drawing is under pressure from digital technology both in design schools and industry yet educators and practitioners alike seem uncertain how best to deal with the digital challenge.

The Literature review, in which the investigation is likened to a sprawling rhizome, covers both practical and philosophical concerns about conceptual tools thereby extending the notion of sketching beyond pen and paper, to what is called sketcherly ways of designing.

To find out how to capture designers' use of conceptual tools, the spectrum of Design methodology was explored in which the case study method combined with protocol study emerged as the research strategy to be tested in a Pilot study.

The pilot outcome set the scene for a protocol study with first-year design students which, through a series of Ideation workshops, illuminates how sketching together with verbalisation is a powerful combination for conceptualisation. In this, the workshop format emerged as an effective means for encouraging novice designers to develop ideation skills.

The pilot was also instrumental for conducting a Multiple case study comprising five second year design students and five recent design graduates working in industry in the domains of fashion, architecture, graphics, product and general design. Using self-reporting and interviews the cases illuminate real uses of conceptual tools situated in everyday designing that reveal the
multifaceted yet unpredictable character of ideation.

The Summary and Conclusion discuss the future role of the conceptual sketch in digital design environments and suggest how scholarship in the context of teaching and learning design can bridge the worlds of design schools and professional practice. In this, computer-aided ideation, CAI, emerged as a promising research field.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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design ideation, conceptual tools, digital technology, drawing, sketching, computer-aided ideation (CAI)

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Date Deposited:

30 Jun 2020 09:27

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:45


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