Investigating The Feasibility Of Digitally Created Industrial Design Sketchbooks



Industrial design practioners and students use project sketchbooks to document their work and keep track of their projects. Usually such sketchbooks are prepared as a physical (paper-based) portfolio. In recent years, however, design processes have becoming increasingly digital, to an extent that the use of paper-based sketchbooks must now be questioned on two grounds: (i) effectiveness in capturing design decision-making, and (ii) appropriateness as a communication medium. This paper reports on a feasibility evaluation that examined opportunities and barriers of transitioning from physical to digitally created sketchbooks. The research comprised four stages. In   stage 1, the content of approximately 60 paper-based student sketchbooks was systematically analysed, illuminating the possible content of a digital equivalent. In stage 2, semi-structured interviews with five instructors and five students were made, revealing perceived strengths and weaknesses of physical and digital sketchbooks. A technology review was conducted for stage 3, to identify a digital sketchbook system for trialling: deciding on a combination of Apple iPad, AluPen stylus, Sketchbook Pro and Dropbox. In the final stage, six graduate industrial students generated digital sketchbooks during a short concept design project, followed by a post-project questionnaire. The paper justifies the feasibility of a digital sketchbook, reinforced especially by students’ appreciation of the portability and professional visualization on offer. However, all students resorted at some point back to paper-based sketching, thereby revealing inadequacies in the chosen system. Refinement of the chosen system and improved pre-project training for students are necessary before large-scale implementation of the digital sketchbook in an undergraduate studio project.

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