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Revealing the nature of interaction between designers and physical and virtual artifacts to support design reflection and discovery

Bucolo, Salvatore (2008) Revealing the nature of interaction between designers and physical and virtual artifacts to support design reflection and discovery. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

This thesis aims at developing a better understanding of the design process and the tools required to support it. Specifically it focuses on the early or conceptual stages of the industrial design process and the role of emerging technology based artifacts in supporting this activity. The starting point for this thesis is that industrial design focuses on discovery of new knowledge and that this process of discovery is reflective in nature. Further designers make use of artifacts throughout the design process to support them in this discovery and their reflection. To reveal the role of artifacts in this process, a study of the interaction between designers and their artifacts has been undertaken. To intensify these relationships this thesis has focused on design review activity undertaken in the early stages of industrial design process. Two ethnographic case studies were conducted which allowed for teams of final year industrial design students to be observed during a conceptual design review. The first case study focused on the student designers interacting with traditional artifacts such as sketches, form studies and illustrations as part of the design review session. In the second case study, the student designers made use of low fidelity digital models which were displayed in a highly immersive virtual reality environment to support the design review. Both case studies captured a time slice of a larger design project which the students were undertaking as part of their university studies. The design project focused on the redesign of a consumer product where the students were required to innovate on an existing design based on a number of technology and market constraints. The design review session which formed the basis of the case study was part of a weekly design critique which required the students to bring to the class all of their design development progress. Students were offered an additional review session which was held in a virtual reality facility to supplement their weekly design review session which formed the basis of the second case study. The objective of the review sessions were for the designers to discuss their progress, identify where they were having difficulty, be challenged on design decision and develop a shared understanding of their direction with the class. The case study approach has allowed for an authentic in situ account of how designers make use of artifacts within the early stages of an industrial design process. It has allowed for a comparison between traditional and technology based artifacts and has revealed how they impact on the nature of discovery and reflection. Through a detailed qualitative analysis of the video data which was captured from the case studies, this thesis makes a number of substantial contributions to the current knowledge gaps on the role of artifacts and to our understanding of this phase of design activity. It substantiates conceptual design activity as a reflective process allowing for new discoveries to be made by representing our existing knowledge and understandings in artifacts which can be reflected upon and extended to create new meaning and innovation. From this grounded perspective it has enabled further understandings into the role of the artifact in supporting the design activity. Artifacts are seen as critical in supporting early stage design activity. However it is the nature of the interaction between the designers and their artifacts within the different settings which have been revealed through this research which is of significance. The affordances of the different artifacts have been shown to alter how the students situate their activity and modify their actions within a design review. page 5 of 171 Further designers are required to make use of additional resources such as gestures and rich design language to supplement their design engagement; and they are required to adapt to the environment where the review is being undertaken to ensure that the objective of the design review can be achieved. This thesis makes its primary contribution in outlining the differences between the various types of artifacts and how they can be used to positively support early stage design activity. It is recommended that both traditional and virtual artifacts have a role in supporting activity, but future approaches should consider them as complimentary and consider ways in which they can be merged. The significance of the research is three fold. Firstly, from a pedagogical perspective, within an educational or practiced based setting, it provides a framework to consider the use of emerging technology based artifacts to support early stage design activity. Secondly, from a technology development perspective the grounded observation in authentic experience of design activity, it provides the foundation to inspire and develop new interfaces to support designer interactions with artifacts. Finally, it makes a substantial contribution to the growing body of design research substantiating and revealing new understanding between designers and their artifacts to support early stage design activity.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 17035
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Adkins, Barbara, Flew, Terry, & Hearn, Gregory
Keywords: design artifacts, design process, conceptual design, virtual reality, interaction design, design research
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 19 Dec 2008 13:15
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2012 08:59

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