Sketching and visual perception in conceptual design : case studies of novice and expert architecture students
This research is concerned with conceptual sketches, visual perception and verbal description. Firstly, it focuses on the role of sketching in conceptual design and begins to question why conceptual sketches are considered a good medium for reflective conversation with one's own ideas and imagery. Secondly, it focuses exclusively on the mental process involved in the analysis and verbal description of conceptual sketches. The empirical study examines how novice and expert designers might perceive different things from the same conceptual sketch and thus use different verbal descriptions, and what this might reveal about their different approaches to design. For this reason some experiments on visual perception, conceptual sketches and verbal description were conducted with expert and novice architecture students. The main objective is to verify to what extent the use of formal references such as line, square or circle and symbolic references such as describing a circle as a sun or a long oval as a sausage, help to understand how designers might think with sketches, while searching for a specific design solution. It also investigates which of the two types of images (non-architectural and architectural sketches) present greater potential for allowing the use of formal and symbolic verbal references, and why. The results show that, on average, the expert group used more formal and symbolic verbal references per minute than novices while describing the same images. The results also show that the non-architectural sketch was judged as easier to describe than the architectural one and gave rise to the use of more symbolic references. This can be seen to confirm earlier work suggesting that we fmd symbolic descriptions easier and more powerful than formal ones. The results also suggest that the expert students were more able to employ symbolic references to architectural concepts than novice students. However, in many other respects there were few differences between the groups. This may in part be due to the limitations of the empirical methodology employed.