Sketching in Design Journals: an Analysis of Visual Representations in the Product Design Process


  • Kimberly Lau University of California, Berkeley
  • Lora Oehlberg University of California, Berkeley
  • Alice Agogino University of California, Berkeley


This paper explores the sketching behavior of designers and the role of sketching in the design process.  Observations from a descriptive study of sketches provided in design journals, characterized by a protocol measuring sketching activities, are presented.  A distinction is made between journals that are entirely tangible and those that contain some digitally-produced content (“hybrid journals”). The trend between 2004 and 2006 is an increase in both the average number of sketches as well as in the percentage of 3D sketches for hybrid journals. In 2004, tangible journals exhibited a higher average number of sketches over hybrid journals in the user needs and conceptual design stages, but this trend reversed in 2006 where hybrid journals favored more sketches at all design stages. Text was the predominant form of annotation used (ranging from 62-98%), as opposed to dimensions or calculations for both journal types. The industrial design students had significantly more sketches overall and a higher percentage of 3D sketches.  They also tended to annotate more in hybrid journals over tangible journals.



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