Conversations Around Design Sketches: Use of communication channels for sharing mental models during concept generation

Nik Shahman Nik Ahmad Ariff, Petra Badke-Schaub, Ozgur Eris
2012, Vol. 17, No. 3,


In this paper, we present an exploratory protocol study on
the use of different communication channels during
design sketching. We focus on how individual designers
share their mental models with other designers in a group,
and analyse their use of graphical, textual, and verbal
communications during concept generation.
Our findings suggest that verbal communication plays a
role in the sharing of individual mental models during
sketching, and complements graphical and textual
communication channels. However, design teams can still
function without verbal communication in that respect,
and address design problems. They seem to compensate
for the absence of the verbal communication channel by
using the graphical and textual channels more, and by
relying on a somewhat different communication structure.
A natural and arguably more desirable interaction utilises
all three channels in conjunction.
Our findings also suggest that, when working in groups,
designers develop and share individual mental models not
only about the design task at hand but also about the
design process in order to manage the group interactions.


sketching, mental models, communication, design thinking

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