DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Barr, Gavin James; Maclachlan, Ross
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom
Section: Creativity 1
DOI number:
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


New digital sketch hardware and environments are increasingly used by design professionals and students to replicate traditional sketch platforms with multiple paperless advantages. The promise of efficient rework, presentation aids and a wide range of virtual tools are immediately compelling, but there has yet to be a deeper analysis of their true value with respect to designer task engagement and productive creativity. The study outlined in the paper assesses student product designers’ engagement with and productivity within sketch-based ideation to investigate the influence of digital sketching workflows. We operationalise Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) psychological concept of ‘Flow’, and Dorta et al’s (2007) more specific ‘Design Flow’, in order to identify whether existing digital environments could stimulate heightened creative engagement in student designers. We also reflect on opportunities to further develop tools that might induce flow towards optimised design process. ‘Flow’ relates to a state of concentration in which people become deeply immersed in an activity and is considered a state of optimal experience, occurring when a person’s skills meet the activity’s challenge. It is associated with a sense of timelessness, lack of self-consciousness and feeling of control that allows people to complete tasks with little effort. When in flow, people are said to be happier, more creative and better performing, all attributes that are highly desirable in many fields, including design.. This study uses Design Flow (Dorta et al, 2007) to assess the emotional states experienced by senior product design students as they generate ideas, and contrasts this with traditional productivity metrics. 20 participants completed an individual sketch ideation session; 10 familiar with digital sketching and 10 identifying as analogue sketchers. A streamlined version of the Design Flow 2.0 method (Safin and Dorta, 2016) allowed participants to self-assess their experience on-task, whilst Ainley et al.’s (2008) pre-task and post-task surveys were used to evaluate changes in perception of skill and challenge before and after the ideation session. Traditional metrics of fluency and elaboration were applied to participants sketch outputs providing further insight and comparison. Preliminary results indicate that the digital group experienced a greater sense of timelessness and were more absorbed in the task, both indicators of flow experiences. Moreover, they enjoyed the experience more than the analogue group, and were more likely to complete the task for the sake of doing it, suggesting increased intrinsic motivation. Similar to previous studies (Self et al, 2016), the analogue group required more effort to stay focused on the task. Further analysis of the collected data will identify the time spent in each emotional state over the duration of the session, addressing the hypothesis that ‘digital sketching induces more flow experiences than conventional sketching’. The findings of this study aim to provide suggestions for the development of digital sketching software to help induce more and longer flow experiences, helping designers to perform better by generating ideas in an optimal cognitive state.

Keywords: design flow, design research, sketching, ideation, evaluation, design tool


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