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A review of computer skills in industrial design education : issues, opportunities and recommendations

posted on 2023-06-09, 18:19 authored by Giovanni Contreras GarciaGiovanni Contreras Garcia
Industrial Design is a discipline concerned with determining the form and function of mass-produced goods. This process depends extensively on the use of models. Until the advent of personal computers, modelling was done mostly by drawing on paper in the case of two-dimensional models, and by making physical mockups using clay, wood, foam, etc in the case of three-dimensional models. With the advent of personal computers however, this process became increasingly computer-based. This application of comptuers for modelling and visualization, constitutes the foundation of what is generally known as 'Computer Aided Design' (CAD) in the Design and Engineering disciplines, and which has become a most essential skill for any practicing professional. The development of these computer skills has been studied in the past, most of this research however, has been done in disciplines with a longer research tradition such as Architecture or Engineering. Moreover, most of this research has been approached from the perspective of Computer Aided Design, not from the perspective of computer skills in general. Therefore it is unknown to what extent Industrial Design students acquire these skills as they transition through college. Besides the fact that computer modelling has become essential in Industrial Design, studying the development of computer skills is important for other reasons. There are computer skills not related to Computer Aided Design, which have been identified as basic literacies in the 21st century. These other skills are intricatelly related to the development of advanced computer modelling techniques which pose opportunities and challenges for Industrial Design education. These studies investigate the computer skills being fostered in Industrial Design schools, and how their development is translated into the curriculum. The studies are based on a survey of 38 Industrial/Product Design schools from different parts of the world, through which their corresponding curriculums were studied/analized. This information was complemented with a number of interviews with practitioners, academics and researchers, and other sources such as artefacts analysis, action research and auto-ethnography. Among other, the studies found that the development of comptuer skills in Industrial Design schools focuses almost exclusively on developing 3D modelling skills, often even excluding 2D skills. The development of other skills, such supporting project management with the use of computers, or computer programming is almost null. The studies also found that most schools do not teach students to work with Polygonal Models, and that a good number only teach students to work with either Solid or Surface (NURBs) models, but not both. One of the arguments raised in the studies, is that due a number of trends, students should learn to work with all three different types of models, including polygonal ones. The studies also found that while strictly speaking the term CAD refers to the use of computers to support the design process, the general understanding in the field, is of CAD being essentially about modelling, and even just about 3D modelling. This tints the research and discussion around the education of computer skills in the field. The studies finish by providing a series of recommendations to enhance the development of computer skills in Industrial Design Education, by using a framework developed in these studies.




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  • Engineering and Design Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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