Observations on ambiguity in design sketches

Prats, Miquel and Garner, Steve (2006). Observations on ambiguity in design sketches. Tracey: the online journal of contemporary drawing research

URL: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/sota/tracey/jou...


Physical and visual qualities of products, such as shape, colour, material and texture, are common outputs of an industrial designer's work. Among these, shape is perhaps the most influential characteristic in the user's perception of products. It is not surprising, therefore, that designers often focus on shape early in the process of product design. While various forms of 2D and 3D representations might be exploited, sketching forms a key technique in the generation and development of product shape. It allows ideas of shape to externalised and communicated. Perhaps more importantly, sketching can operate to assist individuals in the creative generation and development of shape. Central to this function is the capacity for sketches to display ambiguity. Design sketches of shape and form are a particularly interesting category of visual representations because perception and interpretation are bound together with creation and evaluation in the shape sketching process.

This paper reviews the exploitation of ambiguity in design sketches. It also outlines a recent study at the Open University of the sketches of industrial designers. It suggests ambiguity has a vital role to play in the transformation of ideas and reveals how sketches present an ideal form of representational technique that is well matched to the cognitive processes of creative designing.

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