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Special Issue Articles

Sketching across design domains: Roles and formalities

Claudia Eckerta1, Alan Blackwella2, Martin Staceya3, Christopher Earla1 and Luke Churcha2

a1 Design Group, DDEM, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

a2 Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

a3 Faculty of Technology, De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom


To complement studies on design sketching within particular phases of design processes in specific design domains, this paper analyzes descriptions of design processes given by designers from a wide variety of fields. This research forms part of a wider project on comparisons across design domains and draws attention to the many types and properties of sketches in different contexts. Further, it focuses on the multiple roles that sketching can take in idea generation, as well as in reasoning and communicating design ideas. In particular this paper examines how the different types and roles of sketches can be more or less formal and how this can lead to misunderstandings.

(Received June 30 2011)

(Accepted February 13 2012)


  • Design Domains;
  • Design Processes;
  • Sketching


Reprint requests to: Claudia Eckert, Design Group, Department of Design, Environment and Materials, Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. E-mail: