Sketching Sketching: Outlines of a Collaborative Design Method


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Some thoughts on using sketching for visualization design. Presented at the BCS-HCI 2009 conference.

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  • Was completed at UCL Interaction Centre
  • Textual Analysis of the Origin of Species This is a collaborative project between Stefanie Posavec and Greg McInerny of Microsoft Research. The diagram shows chapters, subchapters, paragraphs, sentences. Each sentence is coloured according to whether the sentence will survive to the next edition (blue) or whether it will be deleted and not be within the next edition (orange).
  • 3 of Bach’s Goldberg Variations ( www.turbulence .org) (Mark Wattenberg)
  • Results of voting in the Eurovision 2009 Song Contest by Baris Gumustas.
  • Every single scheduled flight on any given day is represented by a fine line from its point of origin to the airport of destination. by Mario Freese
  • Skyrails is a Social Network and Graph Visualization System with a built-in programming language. This is an interactive visualization for exploring protein metabolism in cells. University of New South Wales.
  • What is interesting about this from a design perspective is uncovering where these ideas come from and how they get attached to user interactions with the system. Design is a creative process. What kinds of activities can support this creative process? In the absence of clear methods, this research sought to beg borrow or steal techniques from other areas of design work and evaluate the results of applying them to visualizations. Design patterns & Sketching. Set patterns aside for now. IN PREPARATION: What does the current research show about sketching?? We examined 3 areas of sketching research: experimental evidence, design cognition studies, design creativity studies.
  • EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE Schutze et al. Engineering design students improved through use of sketching - Barbecue grill Sketching has a positive impact on the quality of the designed solution and on the individual experience of the design process. The quality of the solution concepts increases from entirely mental design problem solving without external support over partly supported to completely supported problem solving. Two more examples: Van der Lugt (brainsketching), Landay and Myers, and Heiser et al. (improved route planning). So there is empirical evidence of BETTER designs, but these do not address design creativity.
  • Design researchers have characterised sketching as a central part of what has come to be called design thinking. So sketching offers cognitive support for designing. Plimmer and Apperly [8], observe that sketching is useful ‘as a cognitive support tool during the design process’ which aids memory, makes mental images concrete, and enables the designer to ‘describe the overall concept and then reorganize, refine and explore the details’. This allows an unstructured problem to be slowly modified and resolved into a final design, and ‘makes good use of our innate visual intelligence’. Fällman [9] also describes sketching as having important cognitive effects because it parallels designers’ thinking processes. He sees sketching as ‘not primarily a tool, technique, or skill that is available to designers, but rather as the way in which designers think’. Because of this, Fällman (like Buxton), considers sketching to be archetypal of design.
  • Finally, Sketching supports the design process by enhancing creativity! A number of researchers have begun to enquire how sketches can support design creativity. Four ambiguous sketches. (Tversky et al.) They are, after all, “sketchy;” that is, vague, committing only to minimal global arrangements and figures. Rather than inducing uncertainty or confusion, ambiguity in design sketches is a source of creativity, as it allows reperceiving and reinterpretating figures and groupings of figures. A designer may construct a sketch with one arrangement in mind, but on inspection, see another arrangement enabling a new, unintended interpretation. They wanted to know: Can the strategy used by the expert architect to enable new design ideas be explicitly adopted by others to same end? Following a similar strategy to experienced architects, undergraduate students who were permitted to rearrange the parts of the sketch generated more ideas than those who weren’t. Reinterpretation led to more idea generation. The sketchiness allows this reinterpretation to occur. Moves the idea out of your head an into the world. Supporting COLLABORATIVE DECISIONS (e. g. Goldschmidt, 1994; Schon, 1983; Suwa, Gero, & Purcell, 2000; Suwa & Tversky, 1997).
  • The inquiry in this case was to see how sketching and design patterns operated in a real design context with a real design problem. How it operates “in the wild”. Again, I’ll be focusing mainly on the sketching results.
  • Research Method: Action Research (AR) Participatory and Exploratory Analysis Method: Grounded Theoretical (GT) analysis (Strauss and Corbin) of the design activities based upon the dialogues and self-assessment of the design team Context: UCL Beacon Project Organisation is working on a computational model of the human liver Communication problem among participans and no knowledge of how to approach designing a visualization to help them ALIGN THEIR MODELS
  • SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT THE PARTICIPANTS USED SKETCHING TO DO. A recurring observation was that sketching was effective because it enabled participants to move ideas from their internal thought processes to a public space where they could be explored and modified. While many participants on the project had privately arrived at good ideas about solutions to specific problems and had perhaps encountered novel solutions in their research, these ideas tended to remain internalized. Facilitating the acting-out of scenarios Helping the team to build ideas together (e.g., “sandbox”) Supporting collaborative decisions (as we saw in Tversky et al.)
  • Forcing it out of the persons head and onto the paper. The particular sketch is not relevant here. It is the recongition by the designer that it was helpful that we are interested in.
  • Abstractions and creativity. This is an example of using an abstract visual metaphor to constrain user input. One visualization idea involved allowing non-mathematicians to construct mathematical models from sub-components. However, the mathematical models in the software have numerous parameters that only interact in certain ways. The team were looking for a way to force users to construct only valid models out of constituent sub-components but needed to allow users to match interfaces among different models.
  • Novel widgets (e.g., provenance slider) modelling interactions,
  • “ WHAT-IF”s. The sketches allowed participants to build up more complex interactions from session to session over a development period of several weeks.
  • Here, in and advanced stage of prototyping, we have more cycles of generation and interpretation. Goldschmidt encapsulates this idea by referring to it as a dialectic of sketching, involving a discourse between the designer and the sketch, using two types of reasoning. She draws her conclusions based upon protocol studies of architects. Describing their sketching activity, she makes a distinction between ‘seeing-as’ and ‘seeing-that’. ‘Seeing-as’ refers to analogical or metaphorical thinking about the sketches, and deriving new meaning from the sketched entities. ‘Seeing-that’ refers to developing an understanding of the design consequences of proposed sketched ideas. Goldschmidt suggests that this type of sketch-based reasoning occurs in rapid oscillation and is an important component of design activity that leads to creativity.
  • Processing - sketching with software. We are already gradually collapsing the available options!
  • GT Central Category: sketching and design patterns support design activities by facilitating the elaboration and reduction of alternatives at key stages of the design process. Buxton has a useful list of the ways that sketching can be helpful in the elaboration phase of the design process and I refer you to his work to look at those.
  • PARTICULARLY IN THE EARLY PHASES OF THE DESIGN PROCESS. While it is intuitively reasonable that sketching is a valuable thinking tool – after all, many of us are likely to doodle idly while considering a problem – this research reaffirms that sketching is a valuable tool for designers of all kinds, including visualization designers. This is because building the user interfaces of graphical visualizations is a design problem.
  • Handy mnemonic. Summary of 3 key (but not the only) benefits: COMMUNICATION/COLLABORATION, CREATIVITY Will create world peace and feed the hungry.
  • Static versus dynamic: showing a process is more difficult (storyboards are not very sketchy) Useful as a throwaway, but at design time only - later they can be hard to interpret. New work showing that designing for teachers is difficult because their elicited internal representations do not lend themselves to concrete visual abstractions on a page. They tend to use word, powerpoint, or paper.
  • Make sure to plug the Arduino tutorial: Sketching with hardware.
  • Sketching Sketching: Outlines of a Collaborative Design Method

    1. 1. Sketching Sketching <ul><li>Outlines of a Collaborative Design Method </li></ul>Dr Brock Craft and Dr Paul Cairns
    2. 8. © Sidney Harris
    3. 9. Schütze et al., © 2003 Springer
    4. 10. Sketching as Design Thinking
    5. 11. Four ambiguous sketches (Tversky et al.)
    6. 13. Action Research Method (Checkland, Baskerville) Grounded Theory Analysis (Strauss & Corbin) Beacon Project (UCL CoMPLEX)
    7. 15. J (mathematician): “I was thinking of it mainly algorithmically. And I was thinking of it in terms of the maths that you would need to do to wrap the calcium interface into the [Waveform Relaxation] interface. And then when you made me write it down, I was forced to draw it like this. And this idea would never have come to me, if you hadn’t made me do that.”
    8. 21. Buxton (2006), adapted from Laseau (1980)
    9. 22. <ul><li>Enhances design problem solving by: </li></ul><ul><li>improving designs, </li></ul><ul><li>supporting design process (e.g., low cost), </li></ul><ul><li>enhancing collaboration/communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Sketching also enhances creativity by: </li></ul><ul><li>supporting short- and long-term memory, </li></ul><ul><li>supporting lateral thinking, </li></ul><ul><li>supporting modeling, </li></ul><ul><li>enabling cycles of generation and (re)interpretation. </li></ul>
    10. 23. Communication & Collaboration, Creativity
    11. 25. Dr Brock Craft London Knowledge Lab 23-29 Emerald Street, London WC1N 3QS, UK +44 (0)20 7763 2137 [email_address] Dr Paul Cairns University of York Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK +44 (0) 1904 434751 [email_address] Thank you!