Sundance Lab for Computing in Design & Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado; Graphics, Visualization, Usability Center & College of Architecture, Georgia Tech
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Architecture and Design, User Interfaces
We investigate the functions of drawing in design and how, based on these functions, a computational sketching and diagramming environment might support design reasoning.
Design, like all problem solving activities, involves reasoning -- making decisions, expressing ideas, verifying and evaluating proposals, and ultimately, taking action. For designers, drawing is a vehicle for design reasoning, and therefore the spontaneous marks made on paper during sketching form a partial record of the designer's thinking. By drawing and looking, designers find visual analogies, remember relevant examples, and discover new shapes based on previously unrecognized geometric configurations in their sketches. Given these observations about design reasoning, we come to the question of whether artificially intelligent computational design media-'intelligent paper'-can support design better, and if so, how? We have constructed several prototypes on top of our freehand drawing program, the Electronic Cocktail Napkin to explore how this might play out.
The Electronic Cocktail Napkin is a pen based, multi-user drawing environment to support conceptual design. It includes facilities for low-level recognition of primitive drawing marks and end-user programming of higher-level recognizes for configurations. It carries ambiguities and imprecision, and provides context based interpretation of drawings.
The Napkin includes a sketchbook for assembling interesting drawings and graphic material, constraint based graphical search, diagram based visual bookmarking and information retrieval from external databases. Users can draw, copy and paste drawings into the Sketchbook, and trace over images from other sources. We have used the Napkin to make diagram-based indexes to several databases, including :
Figure 1 - Using the Cocktail Napkin for diagram based indexing.
We are using the Napkin as a front end to other applications as well. For example, we have used diagram as an interface to local area network simulation program (Figure 2). The user draws a diagram of a local area network and the Napkin sends commands to the LAN simulator to construct a working simulation of the network. (Note that the LAN simulator proposes inserting a gateway between the server and Macintosh along the bottom leg of the network).
Figure 2 - Drawing as a front end to other applications.
We are currently exploring a scheme for automatically (or semi-automatically) invoking the various design assistants. The marks designers make reflect the task at hand. For example, an architect will often draw a bubble diagram when working on functional arrangement of spaces, sight lines and viewsheds when working on lighting and visual access, force diagrams when considering structure stability. We are working on a "right tool at the right time" module that infers from the drawing what the user is working on, and delivers knowledge based support to the task at hand.
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