Dropping concept bombs: Arguing for a knowledge-focused intervention in sketching to stimulate student engagement with visual thinking

DS 87-9 Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 9: Design Education, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017

Year: 2017
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Ranscombe, Charlie; Bissett-Johnson, Katherine; Kuys, Blair
Series: ICED
Institution: Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Section: Design Education
Page(s): 119-128
ISBN: 978-1-904670-97-1
ISSN: 2220-4342


Sketching is acknowledged as being a crucial tool in both exploring and representing ideas during the engineering design process. Despite this importance design educators experience difficulties in encouraging students to engage in this type of visual thinking. Existent research attempting to improve engagement focuses on building sketching skills. The objective of this paper is to present an argument for a knowledge-focused intervention providing augmented domain knowledge when designing, in addition to increasing sketching skill. The basis for the argument is the consideration of sketching as a reflective design activity requiring a degree of analogous or domain knowledge, where a lack there of forms a barrier to fluent engagement. Observations and reflections on deploying the intervention (the Concept Bomb) over 3 years of teaching provide evidence for the success of the intervention. Successes are manifested in increased momentum in engaging with design projects, and greater time efficiency when sketching. Reflections also lead to a number of opportunities for further research into the causality of preliminary findings and influence of the Concept Bomb on design fixation.

Keywords: Sketching, Design cognition, Design education, Design process, Early design phases


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