The use of design tools in industrial design practice

Self, James Andrew (2011) The use of design tools in industrial design practice. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The industrial designer employs a wide variety of design tools to externalise, develop, propose and specify design solutions. This use of tools locates within a rich set of codependent relationships: the character and affordance of individual tools; a designer's expertise in tool use; the influence of the pragmatic requirements of the design process; working culture; and the designer's idiosyncratic use of tools. The research addresses a need to continue to develop an understanding of how design activity is influenced by the use of various established and emergent digital, conventional and hybrid tools and the designer's attitude towards tool use. An adapted model of activity theory was employed together with a taxonomy of design tools and a description of Universal Tool Characteristics (UTCs) to explore the designer's use of tools during practice. Survey studies of two sample groups, design practitioners and design students, were conducted. The study revealed significant differences, between the practitioners and students, in attitudes towards the UTCs of some design tools. In a second phase of research semi-structured interviews were undertaken to further investigate relationships between individual design tools and the practitioner's influence on tool use. Survey and interview findings generated a new framework to comprehensively describe design tool use during industrial design practice. The work was translated into a digital tool (IDsite) that supports less experienced designers in developing awareness of the relationships between tool use and the design process. Findings indicated the ways in which designer attitudes are a reflection of existing approaches to practice. Student designers tended towards a more constrained, convergent approach that can lead to earlier fixation and the crystallisation of concept ideas. Experienced practitioners tend to take a more explorative, divergent and often iterative approach to design work, allowing their design activity to remain open to suggestion and revision. Evidence of this was made explicit through more negative attitudes from students towards those UTCs associated with divergent conceptual design: lateral transformations between design ideas; ambiguity in design embodiment; reflection-in-action during design embodiments. These pre-existing approaches to studio practice are compounded through the use of certain design tools (sketch modelling, 3D printing 3D CAD). The research concludes that awareness of, and engagement with, the relationships between tool use and the dynamic requirements of the industrial design process have a profound influence on attitudes towards design activity. tool selection and use. The research makes explicit some of these differences and how they critically inform the designer's studio practice.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page