Designers routinely create informal “thinking” sketches to explore a design space and “talking” sketches to communicate design ideas during the early phases of the design process. This study proposes a rubric for assessing the quality of novice designers’ early stage design sketches including line smoothness, proportion, and understandability. The study finds a positive correlation between sketch quality and understandability, which indicates the importance of sketch quality when using sketches as a communication tool. Results indicate that early stage sketch quantity is linked with design outcomes, though sketch quality does not have a strong correlation with design outcomes. The study also finds a link between frequency of sketching and having higher maximum sketch quality scores (i.e. at least one excellent sketch) as well as a correlation between individuals’ maximum sketch quality scores and their overall design outcomes. This study presents a new tool to capture what is learned by the designer after each iteration of a prototype. Preliminary results indicate that reflection on both the technical and emotional aspects of prototyping may be valuable and should be an area of further study. Finally, several results point to novice designers’ lack of consistent focus on users in their prototyping reflections and presentations.

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