Very interesting ideas, @ashton_simmonds!
Your post highlights that were still on the frontier of digital visualisation for design. There’s lots of room for experimentation. Please keep sharing!
Your photo shows a bound sketchbook. Have you tried using unbound pages to make it easy for students to iterate via tracing their earlier sketches?
Some thoughts: a huge advantage of sketching during the design process, especially in the first half of the project, is the ambiguity that freehand sketching affords. Firstly, you don’t need to nail down every detail to get the gist of an idea, evaluate, and move on to another iteration. Secondly, you often discover new ideas within that ambiguity which then further fuels the exploration process.
With digital modelling, CAD, etc., precision is part of the package which sometimes forces you to be more exact or specific than you’re ready for in the early stages of a design. This means taking more time to digitally ‘sketch out’ the concept before you’re able to evaluate it. Early-stage design ideas haven’t earned the investment of this much effort in many cases. This can lead to exploration of only a few ideas because of the time-costs of doing so.
Of course every visualisation tool imposes a bias that’s dependent on the user’s skill. Students are more likely to explore design solutions that are easy to visualise in the medium they’re using. For example:
- using a ruler a set squares will encourage straight lines and 30º and 60º angles
- software such as SketchUp! makes rectilinear forms easy (and fun) but organic shapes, compound curves, and so on are more difficult
- plasticine encourages organic shapes but not rectilinear ones
I think it’s useful to encourage the use of a wide array of visualisation tools (paper sketching, physical model making, CAD, etc.) and be conscious of the strengths and weaknesses of each. The wise designer switches tools as the flow of ideas demands.