Get this from a library! Drawing for product designers. [Kevin Henry] -- With its tutorial-based approach, this is a practical guide to both hand-and computer- drawn. The book also illustrates how basic drawing skills underpin the use Kevin Henry is Professor at Columbia College in Chicago Product Design programme. Drawing for Product Designers. by Kevin Henry. Publisher: Laurence King. Release Date: August ISBN: View table of contents.
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This is precisely the point when students need to be as open as possible and prolific. It is only through this initial phase defined by sheer quantity of output that a designer begins to see multiple options and possible themes or patterns. Perhaps the most curious adjective is ambiguous.
Figure 1. First, ambiguous sketches demonstrate the speed and lack of precision that comes with rapid ideation. Second, ambiguous sketches not only elicit conversation between the designer and the marks on the page or screen but also between the client and other designers and collaborators.
Such sketches solicit genuine conversation precisely because of their lack of clarity and often invite interpretations never intended by the designer and yet viable as possible directions. Ambiguous sketches like low-fidelity prototypes built for exploration allow a designer to embody an idea quickly in order to see it, touch it, play with it, interpret it and openly discuss it with others.
Without such artifacts, conversation alone or with others is not initiated.
Ambiguity flies in the face of mastery as we understand it and yet it is vital to the design process at this early stage. In, Conceptual Blockbusting, Jim Adams writes about how most students have emotional blocks that lead to an inability to tolerate ambiguity and instead have an overriding desire for order. In effect, they fail to associate a rough looking prototype and inaccurate sketch with good problem solving.
They are distracted by their belief that every step towards the final solution must be finished and refined. They do not understand the power and compelling nature of incremental development. In the broadest sense, it describes a diverging then converging process that can be drawn as an expanding and contracting funnel of ideas. Given this broad interpretation educators often devise a series of discrete steps meant to guide the student along a path to one or more solutions.
In reality, the process of ideation requires extensive thinking and a prolific output of sketches and prototypes that help students isolate the issues and frame the problem from a more informed viewpoint.
This may include several steps back in time if early concepts prove ineffective. Segregating processes that are defined by media paper versus cardboard or polystyrene foam as an example reinforce discrete mastery at the expense of the broader context. It also allows students to fixate on early ideas and focus instead on what Adams calls conceptual stereotypes thus blocking them from real creativity.
In order for the designer to focus on the user at the center of the process rather than on proficiency of technique, the process has to be kept more open.
Physical models like sketches, however, come in many varieties and are generated initially with quick sketches getting progressively more refined as the problem becomes clearer. Digital technology coupled with analog processes in the correct context can speed up ideation while increasing the quantity of output, which ultimately makes the decision-making process richer.
When sketching and modelmaking are taught as separate activities, the student risks missing this crucial connection and the process risks becoming linear and discrete once again.
Although many of the associated methods are meant to be user-centered, they can instead become overly formulaic. This runs the risk that a student might focus on the many serial deliverables thus leading to a checklist mentality that lacks cohesion.
A contextual design process however shifts the attention away from technologies and tools towards the end-user and context-of-use. The tools and technologies are thus applied to the problem, not the other way around.
This does however raise an important challenge; how will students know what tools to use and will they develop competency that can be measured? A student may increase their comfort with a non-innovative idea by simply switching their focus to the details in a drawing or the building of a model. For many of the same reasons that lead them to accept their first ideas fear of failure , students often gravitate towards the tools and skills they feel most confident with regardless of overall effectiveness.
This means they will avoid the tools they need to work on most to expand their skill set. As they mature through experience, most designers come to see design as the complex activity it is and expand their skill set accordingly. Experienced professionals are more apt to use tools as a means to an end rather than as a demonstration of discrete abilities.
Students who only labor to improve their skill of drawing or modelmaking risk loosing sight of the larger design context. Combine this with the ever-growing array of digital tools being added to the mix and the pressure for a student to focus more intensely converge on discrete skills rather than opening up diverge by applying a broader array of tools to the larger problem is complete.
He contrasts the depth, richness, and beauty that can come with complexity against the unnecessary complications that too often result from arbitrary and capricious decisions made about technology. Good design, the author says, successfully manages complexity through understandability and understanding. One of the things standing in the way of general acceptance of complexity is popular culture itself. In the June issue of Popular Science, the article, Invent Your Own Anything, outlines how hacker spaces and digital prototyping allow people from all walks of life to realize more ideas and use social networking and crowdsourcing to access the marketplace.
Fab spaces and digital prototyping is undoubtedly the rage. They are enormously valuable for non-designers and designers alike, but they should not circumvent the rich appreciation and respect for complexity. It is somewhat remarkable that very little attention is paid to how 3D printers and other digital output tools require input first.
At the beginning of this paper we made the argument that the analog skills of sketching and modelmaking need to change in a user centered design process to focus more on what we sketch and model rather than how we sketch and model. The danger in design education is that this is not being addressed; instead, we may simply be changing how we sketch and model to a digital mode, as opposed to a deep, rich and complex hybrid model.
The idea of garbage in is equal to garbage out seems to have been lost in the hype. And at a most general level, the more we learn how to do, the less we know what to do. What students often lack, especially at the start of their education, is the ability to fold hard knowledge back in to the broader sweep of their process.
Technical manuals, like technical YouTube videos, continue the fragmentation of knowledge. There is simply no way for a student to retain the information or build the necessary mental model to manage the complexity. One way of taming the complexity of software is to focus initially on those aspects of the technology required to make design decisions.
The majority of software in common use today allows many different users to do a wide range of things with the software. Rare is the situation where a designer would need to know everything a single piece of software can do. Most professional software used by industrial designers was not explicitly developed for them and they should understand that mastery of such software is less vital than mastering how the software is used in the context of designing.
Students therefore need to both sketch ideas and build models to experience form and materials. These methods evolve in refinement and fidelity together as they move from the fuzzy front end of initial research and exploration towards the crisp clarity of refined and detailed products.
Digital tools currently have limitations, particularly in the context of early ideation. They are too rigid, lack ambiguity while paradoxically also lacking the precise sensual context that materials afford in prototypes. They can however be folded into the process in a variety of ways that can be shown to students through example and integrated exercises.
NEXT STEPS An expanded education must recognize that analog sketching, analog modelmaking, and computer aided design as well as 3D printing are linked both historically and technically.
Complex surface models are created from two and three-dimensional sketches strategically placed in a virtual environment. They are sketched with the aid of the software, much as physical models are the result of three orthographic views adhered to a block of material and shaped by machine and hand.
Similarly, any artifact whether flat or dimensional can be easily moved between the real and the virtual spheres. Drawings can be scanned or photographed with a mobile phone or digital camera, likewise, models can be photographed and then rendered digitally over the photo, and renderings can be placed back into the CAD environment to serve as the template for detailed and complex surface modeling.
This can drive the process in any order, so that every artifact produced can now feed every other process in an endless iterative cycle. The first challenge is breaking down the boundaries and constraints established by the physical medium itself- paper, screen, material, image, etc. The second challenge is to teach a workflow that focuses on 'what' we sketch and model rather than merely on 'how' we sketch and model.
In other words, technical skills support the exploration and validation in an iterative loop. Figure 2. This shows a natural alignment of digital and analog means of working, where these are not disparate, but natural and complementary tools. New digital design tools are increasingly hybrid.
Two and three-dimensional scanners allow students to bring analog work into the computer environment and digital drawing tablets allow students to sketch directly on the computer.