Draftmaker: a design thinking generator in ICAID


WANG Wei, Ph.D

School of Design, Hunan University, Changsha, China


Prof. ZHAO Jianghong

School of Design, Hunan University, Changsha, China





Sketching is one of the most important activities in the development of new product design. And the thinking phase of design can be aided in a certain extent by draft generator. This paper describes an method used in computer aided concept design and generative design based on design research, and presents Draftmaker in ICAID system which is an application of design thinking generator.


Keywords: Design thinking, CAD, Sketch, Generative Design


1.    Introduction


In last years, CAD (Computer Aided Design) is used in the whole design process and accelerate the product develop cycle with the rapid development of computing and collaboration technologies. However, contrasting with the boom of CAD software, few systems focuses on the early phases of design process. The reasons of this situation are not only technical bottlenecks but the understanding on design objects and process.


As a part of the Tenth Chinese National Five-year Science and Technology Project, ICAID system is required to aid product designers and engineers on NCMT (Numeric Control Machine Tools) industrial design. The main function of ICAID system is pointed on aiding design thinking in the early design phases. So the first question is how to aid thinking in the early design phases?


2.    The Study on NCMT Design Process

Although the precise definition of design process is often argued, there is perhaps an agreement that design process can be divided as two phases. Focusing on designers’ thinking in the whole design process, the early phases are called as divergent phases of thinking and the later are called convergent phases [1].

Figure 1 The design process having a single divergent and convergent phases


Because NCMT are high tech and precise tools in manufacturing, the process of NCMT design requires multidisciplinary collaboration. To understand design objects and process more clearly, we investigate the actual NCMT design process, which includes the questionnaire for designers in Chinese machine tool manufacturer and the experiment on the process of a NCMT design.


The experiment (performed in Hunan University from Dec. 23 to 27, 2002) includes: Subject (five machine tools designers), Experimenter (three ICAID system developers), Task (a design project of vertical machining center), Environment (design software based on Windows and pattern data supports), and Assistant (five software operators). The experiment process is: Subject, who have little experience in NCMT industrial design, are required to independently design a shape project of certain vertical machine center in five hours; Experimenter records the whole process by digital video, observation and protocol [2].  Assistant only can give Subject the assist of software operation but not of ideas and estimates about design.


Analyzing the experiment’s result, some characters was founded as followed: divergent thinking is highly open and multiform but have two basic transformation, lateral transformation and vertical transformation; the database of conceptual design is more dynamic and non-quantitative; and the convergence of divergent thinking is a process of choosing from multidisciplinary constraints depended on personal tendency.


In divergent phases, the designer’s sketch is an integral part of the divergent phases and designers appear largely to have adopted freehand sketching as the main method of communicating and evolving their ideas during these stages. And we found that designer prefer to consult some relative patterns and pictures to aid their thinking. These patterns or drafts should be rapid generative and adjustable. To attend to this kind of needs, ICAID system provide the Draftmaker module.


3.    Draftmaker in ICAID system


Aimed to industrial designs of NCMT, ICAID system includes three main parts as followed:

Client-Server Mode Software, includes Draftmaker, is a product design tool, an entrance of Knowledge Base and Database, a tool to acquire, abstract and renew knowledge, and a communication environment between users and experts [3].


Knowledge Base is a structure to deposit Design Knowledge and User Knowledge, including descriptive facts and exercisable rules. It can give users computer aid and estimate through Client-Server Mode Software. Knowledge’s acquirement, abstraction and renewal also depend on the software.


Database is a structure to store meta-model data, process data and user information data.


Draftmaker, which provides a dynamic and adjustable entrance to other latter modules of ICAID system, is a two-dimension profile generator depended on the projective relation from structure to shape. (Presented by Figure 2)

Studying on designers and design process, the projective relation showed in Figure 3 can be found in NCMT industrial design. And it is constrained by meta-knowledge Meta-knowledge, which is also called “the knowledge about knowledge”, in the knowledge lifecycle [4, 5].

Figure 3 The projective relation from structure to shape


We program meta-knowledge into Draftmaker as a constraining structure of rule-based reasoning .The implementary mechanism of Draftmaker bases on Web & software technic.


4.    Conclusion


Through the lasting research in this field, and based on the cooperation with NCMT designers in developments, our team present that the thinking phase of design can be aided in a certain extent, but cannot just depend on existing tools to reach new request easily. So we develop Draftmaker as a design thinking generator of NCMT in ICAID system.


Additionally, we must notice that different species of products need different thinking methods, and constrained by different meta-knowledge. For example, the most influencing factor in NCMT shape design is the projection from structure to shape. But it becomes more complicated in furniture design or vehicle styling. So generative design thinking must study on the design object.





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[2]Van Someren, The Think Aloud Method: A Practical Guide to Modeling Cognitive Processes. London, The Academic press, 1994.

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[4]Keiichi Sato. Creating a New Product Paradigm between Media Space and Physical Space. InProceedings of International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. Seoul,Korea,362-368,2001.

[5]PLANT, ROBERT T.; GAMBLE, ROSE. Using meta-knowledge within a multilevel framework for KBS development. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 46 (4): 523-547, April, 1997.