Five dimensions in the communication of design intent

Kevin Hilton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Industries which utilize Computer Aided Design, (CAD), are in a similar situation to the film industry, where the use of Computer Graphics, (CG), has reached such a level of reality that audiences often do not spot where CG has been used. This has resulted in a general attitude among critics of: “CG is what you expect in a film, but what we often lack is a decent plot”. Over a similar period, CAD software has become a powerful tool with proficient users, whilst the marketplace for such services now takes such facilities for granted. The ‘wow factor’ has faded. The special effects used in films has contributed to this dulling of presentation impact, which leads us to question where we stand in relation to a competitive edge, with the realization that: “CAD is what you expect from a firm, but what we often lack is clear intent.” The questioning of competitive edge draws us into some complex issues, concerning the reduction of compromise for design intent, where priorities fight for first place. There is no disputing the importance of time to market, yet the time compression technologies may no longer be providing a sufficient cutting edge. Even if new technologies facilitate even shorter lead-times we will always face the threat of a time management trap and potential loss of design quality. As a high-risk strategy for competitive advantage, contractual agreements for specified short lead-time deliveries, in some cases with penalty clauses written in, have established an expectation among the client base. Such a strategy leads us to effectively burn our bridges, in sacrificing margins for schedule 3 slippage and error compensation, leaving us nowhere to go but back. With such a lean approach to product development we have to improve our focus on the plot and its intent for design quality. The more investment we make at the front end, to enable the decision making process, the more likely we are to avoid pain at the back-end. Presently, decisions are made on a resource of available quality and quantity of data, using a perspective which is based on the experience, tacit knowledge and intuition of those involved. Whilst intuition is a good starting point or fall-back, as with tacit knowledge, it often proves difficult to substantiate. Background experience is the most valuable asset here but proves ineffectual when faced with low quality data, either through ambiguity, error or lack of substance. The improvement of quality standards require that we look closely at the production and presentation of data in the context of decision making and establish a process by which quality decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. This paper focuses on the process of communication between designers and their colleagues and clients, concerning the presentation of CAD models, from a cognitive perspective. It first establishes a context for individual differences in the management of auditory and visual information for decision making. This is followed by a discussion of five approaches to the communication of design intent and concludes with a checklist, to aid selection of an effective approach to communication.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2002
EventFourth International Symposium on Tools and Methods of Competitive Engineering - Wuhan, China
Duration: 22 Apr 2002 → …


ConferenceFourth International Symposium on Tools and Methods of Competitive Engineering
Period22/04/02 → …


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