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Going beyond object sketching: A new vocabulary of sketching and visualisations should facilitate mutual communication between designers, engineers, users, specialists and all other stakeholders during these design processes.

New levels of complexity and abstraction in the field of industrial design require new powerful visualisations to analyse, discover, express and depict progressions, emotions, experiences, stories, scenarios and other intangible aspects involved in the system.

Published taxonomies (see below) thoroughly cover all sketches and drawings applied in object-oriented industrial design projects, but the scope of industrial design constantly broadens, so the designer needs to extend his/ her sketch vocabulary with sketch types adopted from related fields.

For example, systemic design is a recent discipline in the field of design. It integrates systems thinking and human-centred design with the intention of helping designers cope with complex design projects. The recent challenges to design coming from the increased complexity caused by globalisation, migration and sustainability render traditional design visualisation methods insufficient.

An example is gigamapping. This creates an information cloud for visualising complexity from which a designer can derive innovative solutions. It serves as a method that is both systemic and designerly. According to Birger Sevaldson, it has proven to be an ultimate bridging device within groups of collaborators, and enables the development of a shared understanding of construction systems (see also

One role of the designer in the systemic method is to stimulate and participate in co-creation sessions and to sketch/visualise on-the-spot contributions from the different stakeholders to facilitate communication.

Another role of the designer is to visualise the synthesis of the analysis. The sketches made during the analysis and design process serve more as a visual thinking tool than a communications tool. The final gigamap is a graphically well-balanced infographic-mind map communicating and summarising all discussed issues.

Other types of systemic design sketches recently added to the spectrum of the designers' sketch vocabulary include user experience sketches, process sketches, product service design sketches and customer journey illustrations. What these new sketches and visualisations have in common is the fact that they are mostly non-object related. For example, sketches made in the early stages of a new product development phase of complex systems designs depict more the mutual relations between the different stakeholders, the evolution of the project in time, the context of the problem, the different system design possibilities, than any possible hardware components involved.

If the goal of design educational programmes is to prepare students to become skilled creative people in a fast-evolving industrial design and engineering landscape, students' sketch competences should extend beyond merely object-related sketches and drawings. For design schools, this insight could mean a major revision of drawing courses.

Types of product drawings

A number of sketching and drawing stages in new product development were listed in Loughborough University's ID Cards project (

[check] Idea sketch

[check] Study sketch

[check] Referential sketch

[check] Memory sketch

[check] Coded sketch

[check] Information sketch

[check] Sketch rendering

[check] Prescriptive sketch

[check] Scenario & storyboard

[check] Layout rendering

[check] Presentation rendering

[check] Diagram

[check] Perspective drawing

[check] General arrangement drawing

[check] Detail drawing

[check] Technical illustration

This article is based on 'Towards an Extended Design Sketch & Visualisation Taxonomy in Industrial Design Education', winner of the best presentation award at the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, 12-13 September 2019, University of Strathclyde, based on the scoring of delegates via Conference4me app.
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Author:Corremans, Jan; Mulder-Nijkamp, Maaike
Publication:Engineering Designer
Date:Nov 1, 2019
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