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April 12th, 2018

Sketching — Another Way for Engineers to Communicate Ideas

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Written by: Bart Brejcha
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Engineers need to possess many skills, most of which being technical, however, especially for engineering design, creativity is also required. In order to innovate, creativity is essential. 

 

Visual thinking and the Generation of ideas 

Visual thinking is key in creativity and design. What is visual thinking? It is a way to organize your thoughts and improve your ability to think and communicate.  It also involves using tools— such as pen and paper, tablets, or CAD. Though CAD is fundamental for engineering and creating products, it is more for detailed design rather than creativity. H.McKim , explains the term “idea sketching” as a part of visual thinking, the purpose is to generate ideas. The generation of ideas is a critical element in the product development and design process. In the early stages you don’t want to waste time, you want to increase quantity of ideas. Later in the process is the time for scrutinizing and process of elimination. In the initial brain storming stage you generate a multitude of ideas.

 

Sketching and engineering education

A sketch is a quick drawing made in an informal way with approximated dimensions and details. On the other hand, an engineering drawing is a detailed description of an engineering system of  a design, with exact dimensions. Industrial designers are known to be creative individuals, and possess sketching skills, engineers are often perceived otherwise. We sketch as way to rapidly make provisional drawings, aiming to create an efficient sense of spatial and relational information.  Though sketching is a useful tool being applied to design for expressing creativity and visual thinking, Sketching doesn’t not have a substantial representation in engineering education.

According to the Engineering Design Graphics Division of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), freehand sketch engineering objects is one of the most important graphical communication  skills to be learnt by engineering students.

Although sketching is not adequately included in engineering programs, this skill is present in engineering schools by the efforts of some educators. Teaching basic techniques in freehand sketching would help them generate quicker and more effective external visual presentations of designers ideas, and thus cultivate their creativity. Though, it is argued by some that creativity is not necessarily cultivated, but ideas are communicated more effectively. Either way, the ability to sketch is a good skill to possess.

This shows a need to be taken into consideration for future engineering educational programs, in order to give students the value of sketching, as well of foster its use, to train the future design engineer in sketching skills. We suggest those in engineering design to expand their skill set, and if possible, participate in formal training for sketching and drawing in support of design projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Design-Engine: Trains design and Engineering teams using various CAD software, and sketching in Chicago and onsite all over the world. If you are interested in CAD or sketching training call 312.226.8339 or email training@designengine.com

Sketching as A Form of Communication

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Martin-Erro, Alfonso, et al. “The Role Of Sketching In Engineering Design And Its Presence On Engineering Education.” INTED2016 Proceedings, 2016, doi:10.21125/inted.2016.1822.

  1. H. McKim, “Experiences in visual thinking.,” BrooksCole Publ. Co., 1980.

Yang, Maria C. “Observations on Concept Generation and Sketching in Engineering Design.”Research in Engineering Design, vol. 20, no. 1, 2008, pp. 1–11., doi:10.1007/s00163-008-0055-0.


About the Author

Bart Brejcha
As the main instructor for Design-engine Bart teaches many of the PTC Creo & the Solidworks Surfacing classes. When he is not developing new training material you will find him on motorcycles, bicycles or on a skateboard. He loves any kind of racing on two wheels.




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