Roles of externalisation activities in the design process

  • Maral Babapour Chafi Department of Product and Production Development, Division Design & Human Factors; Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Keywords: Design activities, External representations, Sketching, Physical and digital modelling


Designers engage in various activities, dealing with different materials and media to externalise and represent their form ideas. This paper presents a review of design research literature regarding externalisation activities in design process: sketching, building physical models and digital modelling. The aim has been to review research on the roles of media and representations in design processes, and highlight knowledge gaps and questions for future research.


Download data is not yet available.


Akin, Ö. & Lin, C. (1995), "Design protocol data and novel design decisions". Design Studies, Vol. 16, No.2, pp. 211-236.

Alcaide-Marzal, J., Diego-Más, J. A., Asensio-Cuesta, S. & Piqueras-Fiszman, B. (2012), "An exploratory study on the use of digital sculpting in conceptual product design". Design Studies, Vol. 34, No.2, pp. 264-284.

Babapour, M., Rehammar, B. & Rahe, U. (2012), "A Comparison of Diary Method Variations for Enlightening Form Generation in the Design Process". Design and Technology Education: an International Journal,Vol. 17, No.3, pp.

Bilda, Z. & Demirkan, H. (2003), "An insight on designers sketching activities in traditional versus digital media". Design Studies, Vol. 24, No.1, pp. 27-50.

Brereton, M. (2004) "Distributed cognition in engineering design: Negotiating between abstract and material representations". In Goldschmidt, G., and Porter, W. L. (eds) Design representation. Springer, pp. 83–103.

Capjon, J. (2004) Trial-and-error-based innovation: Catalysing shared engagement in design conceptualisation. PhD thesis, Arkitekthøgskolen, Oslo.

Coyne, R., Park, H. & Wiszniewski, D. (2002) "Design devices: digital drawing and the pursuit of difference". Design Studies, Vol. 23, No.3, pp. 263-286.

Cross, N. (1999) "Natural intelligence in design". Design Studies, Vol. 20, No.1, pp. 25–39.

Dreyfus, H. L. & Dreyfus, S. E. (1999) "The Challenge of Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Embodiment for Cognitive Science". In Weiss, G., and Haber, H. F. (eds) Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture. Taylor & Francis, pp. 103–120.

Fish, G. (2004) "Cognitive Catalysis: Sketches for a Timelagged Brain". In Goldschmidt, G., and Porter, W. L. (eds). Design representation. Springer.

Fish, J. & Scrivener, S. (1990) "Amplifying the mind's eye: sketching and visual cognition". Leonardo, Vol. pp. 117–126.

Gibson, J. J. (1986) The ecological approach to visual perception. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, N.J. Goel, V. (1995) Sketches of thought. MIT Press.

Goldschmidt, G. (2003) "The Backtalk of Self-Generated Sketches". Design Issues, Vol. 19, No.1, pp. 72–88.

Greenberg, S. & Fitchett, C. (2001) "Phidgets: easy development of physical interfaces through physical widgets". In Proceedings of the 14th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology. ACM, pp. 209–218.

Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination, SAGE Publications.

Hartson, R. (2003) "Cognitive, physical, sensory, and functional affordances in interaction design". Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol. 22, No.5, pp. 315–338.

Houde, S. & Hill, C. (1997) "What do prototypes prototype". In Helander, M.G., Landauer, P.V. & Prabhu, P.V. (eds)

Handbook of human-computer interaction, Vol. 2, pp. 367–381.

Jonson, B. (2005) "Design ideation: the conceptual sketch in the digital age". Design Studies, Vol. 26, No.6, pp. 613-624.

Kavakli, M. & Gero, J. S. (2001) "Sketching as mental imagery processing". Design Studies, Vol. 22, No.4, pp. 347–364.

Kosslyn, S. M., Thompson, W. L. & Ganis, G. (2006) The case for mental imagery. Oxford University Press.

Lawson, B. (2002) "CAD and creativity: does the computer really help?" Leonardo, Vol. 35, No.3, pp. 327–331.

Lawson, B. (2006) How designers think: the design process demystified. Elsevier/Architectural.

Lawson, B. & Dorst, K. (2009) Design Expertise. Taylor & Francis Group.

Lawson, B. & Loke, S. M. (1997) "Computers, words and pictures". Design Studies, Vol. 18, No.2, pp. 171–183.

Lee, J. C., Avrahami, D., Hudson, S. E., Forlizzi, J., Dietz, P. H. & Leigh, D. (2004) "The calder toolkit: wired and wireless components for rapidly prototyping interactive devices". In Proceedings of the 5th conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques. ACM, pp. 167–175.

Mckim, R. H. (1980) Experiences in visual thinking. Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.

Menezes, A. & Lawson, B. (2006) "How designers perceive sketches". Design Studies, Vol. 27, No.5, pp. 571–585.

Muller, W. (2001), Order and meaning in design. Lemma Publishers.

Norman, D. A. (2002) The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books.

Pei, E., Campbell, I. & Evans, M. (2011) "A Taxonomic Classification of Visual Design Representations. Used by Industrial Designers and Engineering Designers". The Design Journal, Vol. 14, No.1, pp. 64–91.

Purcell, A. T. & Gero, J. S. (1998) "Drawings and the design process". Design Studies, Vol. 19, No.4, pp. 389–430.

Pye, D. (1978) The nature and aesthetics of design. Barrie & Jenkins, London.

Robertson, B. F. & Radcliffe, D. F. (2009) "Impact of CAD tools on creative problem solving in engineering design". Computer-Aided Design, Vol. 41, No.3, pp. 136–146.

Salman, H. S., Laing, R. & Conniff, A. (in press), "The impact of computer aided architectural designprograms on conceptual design in an educational context". Design Studies. Doi: 10.1016/j.destud.2014.02.002

Schenk, P. (1991) "The role of drawing in the graphic design process", Design Studies, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 168–181.

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action. New York, Basic Books.

Schön, D. A. & Wiggins, G. (1992) "Kinds of seeing and their functions in designing". Design Studies, Vol. 13, No.2, pp. 135–156.

Séquin, C. H. (2005) "CAD tools for aesthetic engineering". Computer-Aided Design, Vol. 37, No.7, pp. 737–750.

Stones, C & Cassidy, T. (2007) "Comparing synthesis strategies of novice graphic designers using digital and traditional design tools", Design Studies, Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 59–72.

Stones, C & Cassidy, T. (2010) "Seeing and discovering: how do student designers reinterpret sketches and digital marks during graphic design ideation?", Design Studies, Vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 439–460.

Suwa, M. & Tversky, B. (1997) "What do architects and students perceive in their design sketches? A protocol analysis". Design Studies, Vol. 18, No.4, pp. 385–403.

Te Duits, T., Van Daalen, P. & Beuningen, M. B. V. (2003) The origin of things: sketches, models, prototypes. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Tovey, M. (1986) "Thinking styles and modelling systems".Design Studies, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 20–30.

Tovey, M. (1989) "Drawing and CAD in industrial design". Design Studies, Vol. 10, No.1, pp. 24–39.

Ullman, D. G. (2003), The mechanical design process. McGraw-Hill.

Verstijnen, I. M., Van Leeuwen, C., Goldschmidt, G., Hamel, R. & Hennessey, J. M. (1998) "Sketching and creative discovery". Design Studies, Vol. 19, No.4, pp. 519–546.

Veveris, M. (1994) "The importance of the use of physical engineering models in design". IDATER 1994 Conference, Loughborough: Loughborough University.

Viswanathan, V. K. & Linsey, J. S. (2009) "Enhancing student innovation: Physical models in the idea generation process". In Frontiers in Education Conference, 2009. FIE '09. 39th IEEE. pp. 1–6.

Wiegers, T., Dumitrescu, R., Song, Y. & Vergeest, J. S. M. (2006) "A method to chart the structure of designers' clay modeling processes". In Marjanovic, D. (ed.) Proceedings of Design 2006 – The 9th International design conference, Dubrovnik, pp. 153-160. Dubrovnik, pp. 153–160.

Won, P. H. (2001) "The comparison between visual thinking using computer and conventional media in the concept generation stages of design". Automation in Construction, Vol. 10, No.3, pp. 319–325.

Yang, M. C. (2005), "A study of prototypes, design activity, and design outcome". Design Studies, Vol. 26, No.6, pp. 649–669.

Yi-Luen Do, E. (2005) "Design sketches and sketch design tools", Knowledge-Based Systems, vol. 18, no. 8, pp. 383–405

How to Cite
Babapour Chafi, M. (2016) “Roles of externalisation activities in the design process”, Swedish Design Research Journal, 11(1), pp. 34-46. doi: 10.3384/svid.2000-964X.14134.
Research articles