An Analysis of Sketching Skill and Its Role in Early Stage Engineering Design

[+] Author and Article Information
Maria C. Yang1

Daniel J. Epstein Dept. of Industrial & Systems Engineering,  University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089maria.yang@usc.edu

Jorge G. Cham

Department of Mechanical Engineering,  California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125jgcham@caltech.edu


Corresponding author.

J. Mech. Des 129(5), 476-482 (May 19, 2006) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2712214 History: Received December 31, 2005; Revised May 19, 2006

Previous studies have demonstrated the importance of sketching in design cognition, particularly in the early stages of engineering design. The goal of this preliminary study is to consider the role of a designer’s sketching ability and to examine the potential link between sketching skill and measures of engineering design performance. Sketching ability was evaluated on three distinct aspects relevant to engineering design: visual recall, rendering, and novel visualization. These evaluations were correlated with each other and with measures for sketch fluency, reviewer ranking, and design project outcome. The results of this study suggest that sketching skill is not comprehensive nor is it solely task based. Rather, a designer’s sketching ability lies between these two poles. Positive correlations were found between the quantity of sketches produced and two of the sketching skills that emphasize drawing facility, but a negative correlation was found between sketch quantity and a skill related to mechanism visualization. No conclusive correlations were found between the sketching skills and design outcome and reviewer ranking. This study's findings suggest an important interplay between a designer's ability to sketch and their ability to visualize in their heads or through prototypes. Results also suggest that designers who are given sketch instruction tended to draw more overall.

Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1

Representative drawings for the three sketch tasks. Level 1 demonstrates lowest drawing facility, while level 5 shows highest facility.

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2

Sample projects from surveyed engineering design course: Left, multiwheeled vehicle and right, mechanical prototype to simulate motion of fish



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