A Comparison of Haptic Sketching and Digital Sketching: Considerations of Final Year Design Students

A Comparison of Haptic Sketching and Digital Sketching: Considerations of Final Year Design Students

Tom Page (Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2019040109
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This article compares and contrasts the use of haptic and digital sketching in the design process. It investigates the preferred sketching method of final year design students. In addition, it examines the relationship between effective communication and the use of haptic and digital sketching. A case study involving ten final year students studying product design courses at Nottingham Trent University was undertaken. The text explores the current literature and identifies the benefits of using the two methods. The inclusion of digital sketching tutorials in the undergraduate curriculum is discussed as well as the option of replacing haptic with digital sketching. The study concludes that while a wider survey with students from other design courses would be useful, the results provide strong evidence that final year students currently prefer haptic to digital sketching as an essential part of the design process.
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1. Introduction

Haptic Sketching refers to the “sense of touch” a user encounters when drawing on a piece of paper. It is the most recognised method of communicating ideas and capturing a designer’s thoughts. Sketching is almost as old as humankind, in an instrumental yet auxiliary role it developed along with the other arts in antiquity and during the middle-ages. Whether this was through preliminary sketches of mosaics or architectural design drawings for statues and buildings the skill has always been present, despite at the time being subordinate to the other arts. The oldest drawing ever found were on cave walls which dated back to around 30,000 years ago, and since then skill has developed immensely. Sketching is the process or technique used, whilst the medium is the material on which the artwork is created. Naturally as technology advanced different materials and different techniques evolved which improved new styles of drawing. Towards the end of the 14th century after the introduction of paper, sketching started to become an independent art form. Now in the modern day artists have the opportunity to create drawings digitally using tablet pc’s. The foundations of the skill still arise from the traditional method, however, the process is so simple many people are now not as skilled with pen and paper.

1.1. Aims and Objectives

As technology continues to advance and the need to communicate ideas over distance increases, this paper explores the theory that digital sketching should replace haptic sketching in the undergraduate curriculum. The research examines the application of both haptic and digital sketching with final year design students. Specifically, it investigates the effectiveness of the two methods when communicating and presenting design ideas. In addition to this, it seeks to identify when final year design students use the two methods and if digital sketching lessons should be included in the undergraduate curriculum.

In order to fulfil this aim, the research will examine the advantages and disadvantages of using a haptic and digital based method of sketching for a variety of uses essential to the design process in addition, it aims to define which method is easier to use when communicating concepts across long and short distances. Finally, it aims to distinguish which technique is preferred by final year students.


2. Sketching

Sketching is described as “the traditional way of designing” (Pavel, 2005). It has proven itself to be a “powerful tool for communicating” (Steur, 2007), especially when explaining product information. In the modern era, sketching remains the quickest and most direct method for designers to portray their ideas. Sketching has the ability to provide immediate visualisation of ideas as they are conceived and in doing so can convey information “far more efficiently than language” (Henry, 2012).

However, Bilda, Gero, and Purcell (2006), evaluated the necessity of sketching in conceptual designing and argued that during the conceptual design phase sketching is not a necessary activity. The study explored the comparison of two different design processes with expert architects, one where they were allowed to sketch and the other where they were not. Results were based on three assessment criteria: design outcome, cognitive activity and design links. The outcome showed no significant difference between the sketching and not sketching tasks, which suggests that it is an unnecessary activity for “expert designers”.

Craft, and Cairns (2009) explored “key” areas where sketching is seen as “beneficial” to designers. A qualitative study was conducted to understand how the effects of sketching supports design creativity. Designers working on a visualisation design problem were considered. Using a theoretical approach to analyse the data, the results showed that sketching supports key stages of the design process. The importance of sketching is further supported by (Schütze, Sachse, and Römer, 2003). This study used 45 engineering students to evaluate the use of sketching and how it supports the early stages of the design process. Three groups were given the same design brief but had different sketching restrictions applied. Performance was notably different and the group with most freedom produced the highest quality solution. Importantly, this group reported the task to be less challenging than the other two groups. Conclusions showed that sketching “has a positive effect on solution quality”.

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