Modeling the Role of Sketching in Design Idea Generation

  • Gabriela Goldschmidt


This paper presents a model of the role of sketching in the early, search phase of design. After outlining the model, it is substantiated by research findings based on case studies and empirical experiments. The point of view is cognitive, and the model and supporting evidence investigate the role of sketching as a thinking aid. Sketching provides rapid external representation that, in the hands of experienced sketchers, can be produced with next to no cognitive cost. It tolerates “shortcuts” and in particular incompletion, inaccuracy, and lack of scale. It is reversible in the sense that it is easy to backtrack, revise, and transform images, and it is only very minimally rule-bound and employs flexible stop-rules. This type of fast external representation works in tandem with internal representation, in imagery, and the two types of representation support and complete one another. Sketching is therefore a strategic design skill, the mastery of which is highly recommended even in the current digital age.


Mental Image Analogical Reasoning External Representation Design Idea Fifteenth Century 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Aalto A (1957) Abstract art and architecture. In: Hoesli B (ed) Alvar Aalto: synopsis. BirkenhäuserVerlag, Basel, pp 223–225Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Anderson RE, Helstrup T (1993) Visual discovery in mind and on paper. Mem Cogn 21:283–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arnheim R (1986) A plea for visual thinking.In New essays on the psychology of art. University of California Press, Brkeley, pp 135–152Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Athavankar U (1996) Mental imagery as a design tool. In: Trappl R (ed) Proceedings of the thirteenth European meeting on cybernetics and systems. Austrian Society of Cybernetics Studies and University of Vienna, Austria, 19–12 April, 1996, Vol II, pp 382–387Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bilda Z, Gero JS, Purcell AT (2006) To sketch or not to sketch: that is the question. Des Stud 27(5):587–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cardoso C, Badke-Schaub P (2009) Give design a break? The role of incubation periods during idea generation. In: Bergendahl M, Grimheden M, Leifer L, Skogstad P, Lindemann U (eds) Proceedings of the 17th international conference on engineering design (ICED’09), vol 2. Design Theory and Research Methodology. The Design Society, Stanford, pp 383–394Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Casakin H, Goldschmidt G (1999) Expertise and the use of analogy and visual displays: implications for design education. Des Stud 20(2):153–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    deVere I, Kapoor A, Melles G (2011) Developing a drawing culture: new directions in engineering education. In: Culley SJ, Hicks BJ, McAloone TC, Howard TJ, Dong A (eds) Proceedings of the 18th ICED. The Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, vol 8 paper 426, 151–160Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Do EY-L (2002) Drawing Marks, Acts and Reacts: toward a computational sketching for architectural design. AIEDAM 16(3):149–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Do EY-L (2005) Design Sketches and Sketch design tools. Knowl Based Syst 18:383–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dorst K, Cross N (2006) Creativity in the design process: coevolution of problem-solution. Des Stud 22(5):425–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Eisenstein EL (1983) The printing revolution in early modern Europe. Cambridge university Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ferguson ES (1992) Engineering and the mind’s eye. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Finke R (1990) Creative imagery: discoveries and inventions in visualization. Erlbaum, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Fish J, Scrivener S (1990) Amplifying the mind’s eye; sketching and visual cognition. Leonardo 23:117–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gentner D (1983) Structure-mapping: a theoretical framework for analogy. Cogn Sci 7(2):155–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Goldschmidt G (1991) The dialectics of sketching. Creativity Res J 4(2):123–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Goldschmidt G (1994) On visual design thinking: the vis kids of architecture. Des Stud 15(2):158–174CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Goldschmidt G (2001) Visual analogy—a strategy for design reasoning and learning. In: Eastman C, Newsletter W, McCracken M (eds) Design knowing and learning: cognition in design education. Elsevier, New York, pp 199–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Goldschmidt G (2002) Read-write acts of drawing. TRACEY (Internet Journal dedicated to contemporary drawing issues); issue on syntax of mark and gesture, University, UK. Loughborough
  21. 21.
    Goldschmidt G (2003) The backtalk of self-generated sketches. Design Issues 19(1):72–88Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Goldschmidt G (2008) Sketching is alive and well in this digital age. In: Poelman W, Keyson D (eds) Design processes: What architects and industrial designers can teach each other about managing the design process. IOS Press, Amsterdam, pp 29–43Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Goldschmidt G (2011) Avoiding design fixation: transformation and abstraction in mapping from source to target. J Creative Behav 45(2):92–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Goldschmidt G, Klevitsky E (2004) Graphic representation as reconstructive memory: Stirling’s German museum projects. In: Goldschmidt G, Porter WL (eds) Design representation. Springer, London, pp 37–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Goldschmidt G, Smolkov M (2006) Variances in the impact of visual stimuli on design problem-solving performance. Des Stud 27(5):549–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gross MD (1996) The Electronic Cocktail Napkin—a computational environment for working with design diagrams. Des Stud 17(1):53–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gross MD, Do EY-L (2000) Drawing on the back of an envelope. Comput Graph 24(6):835–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Heidenrich L, Lotz W (1974) Architecture in Italy 1400–1600. Penguine Books, MiddlesexGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Herbert DM (1988) Study drawings in architectural design: their properties as a graphic medium. J Architect Educ 41:26–38MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Johnson G, Gross MD, Hong J, Do EY-L (2009) Computational support for sketching in design: a review. Found Trends Hum–Comput Interact 2(1)1:1–93Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Johnson-Laird PN (1989) Analogy and the exercise of creativity. In: Vosniadou S, Ortony A (eds) Similarity and analogical reasoning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 313–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Lacy B (1991) 100 contemporary architects: drawings & sketches. Harry N. Abrams, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Linsey J, Tseng I, Fu K, Cagan J, Wood KL (2009) Reducing and perceiving design fixation: initial results from an NSF-sponsored workshop. In: Bergendahl M, Grimheden M, Leifer L, Skogstad P, Lindemann U (eds) Proceedings of the 17th international conference on engineering design (ICED’09), vol 2. Design theory and research methodology. The Design Society, Stanford, pp 233–44Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Olszweski EJ (1981) The draughtsman’s eye: late renaissance schools and styles. Cleveland Museum of Art/Indianna University Press, ClevelandGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Oxman R (2008) Digital architecture as a challenge for design pedagogy: theory, knowledge, models and medium. Des Stud 29(2):99–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Purcell AT, Gero JS (1996) Design and other types of fixation. Des Stud 17(4):363–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Purcell AT, Gero JS (1998) Drawings and the design process. Des Stud 19(4):389–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Schank Smith K (2005) Architects’ drawings: a selection of sketches by world famous architects through history. Architectural Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Schön D, Wiggins G (1992) Kinds of seeing and their functions in designing. Des Stud 13(2):135–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Shapir O, Goldschmidt G, Yezioro A (2007) Conceptual design: an operational prescription for a computer support system. In: Banissi E, Sarfraz M, Dejdumrong N (eds) Computer graphics, imaging and visualization: new advances. 4th CGIV07 international conference. Bangkok, 15–17 Aug. IEEE & Computer Society, London, pp 513–521Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sloman SA (1996) The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychol Bull 119(1):3–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Smith SM, Linsey JS, Kerne A (2010) Using evolved analogies to overcome creative design fixation. In: Taura T, Nagai Y (eds) Design creativity 2010. Springer, London, pp 35–39Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Suwa M, Tversky B (1997) What do architects and students perceive in their design sketches? A protocol analysis. Des Stud 18(4):385–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Suwa M, Tversky B (2001) How do designers shift their focus of attention in their own sketches? In: Anderson M, Meyer B, Olivier P (eds) Diagrammatic representation and reasoning. Springer, London, pp 241–254Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Suwa M, Tversky B (2002) External representations contribute to the dynamic construction of ideas. In: Hegarty M, Meyer B, Narayanan NH (eds) Diagrammatic representation and inference, proceedings of diagrams 2002. Lecture notes in artificial intelligence series. Springer, London, pp 341–343Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Suwa M, Tversky B, Gero JS, Purcell T (2001) Seeing into sketches: regrouping parts encourages new interpretations. In: Gero JS, Tversky B, Purcell T (eds) Proceedings of visual and spatial reasoning in design II. Key Centre of Design Computing and Cognition, University of Sydney, pp 207–220Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Verstijnen IM, Hennessey JM, van Leeuwen C, Hamel R, Goldschmidt G (1998) Sketching and creative discovery. Des Stud 19(4):519–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Verstijnen IM, van Leeuwen C, Goldschmidt G, Hamel R, Hennessey JM (1998) Creative discovery in imagery and perception: combining is relatively easy, restructuring takes a sketch. Acta Psychol 99:177–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Woodbury RF, Burrow AI (2006) Whither design space? AIEDAM 20:63–82Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations