Shape exploration in product design: assisting transformation in pictorial representations

Prats, Miquel (2007). Shape exploration in product design: assisting transformation in pictorial representations. PhD thesis The Open University.



The sketching of pictorial representations forms a key technique for professional designers in the generation and exploration of product shape. It allows ideas of shape to be externalised and communicated, but more importantly, sketched pictorial representations can operate to assist designers' creative thinking. While computer aided design tools have a proven capability to support the development of design ideas, there is still much scope to develop computer based tools that support the free-flowing exploratory thinking that characterises shape generation and shape exploration in product design. Far from being a straight-jacket in creative design, shape rules have significant potential to bridge the gap between traditional sketching techniques and modern computational methods of design. This thesis presents an inquiry into the exploitation of shape rules within product design. It includes studies of design sketches by professional designers and these inform the development of a theoretical model for assisting design transformation. A formal model of exploration is proposed with two mechanisms; shape decomposition and shape transformation. This model is applied using pictorial representations which may be seen as the computing equivalent of freehand sketches, and reveals new strategies for systematic shape generation and exploration in product design.

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