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Teaching Visual Design Thinking

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Capstone Design II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1372.1 - 12.1372.8

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Paper Authors


James Wronecki East Tennessee State University

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James A. Wronecki is a designer/educator with diverse experience product and digital design medias. Mr. Wronecki currently serves an Assistant Professor of Digital Product Design within the Digital Media Program and Technology Department at East Tennessee State University. He received his Masters of Industrial Design from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pa. He has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia University, and The Art Institute of Atlanta.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Visual Design Thinking: Introduction

This paper presents a way to teach visual design thinking that is currently used to structure a foundation level University course entitled Visual Thinking. The Visual Thinking course is a core course for digital media, and product design based learning concentrations within the Engineering Technology Department at East Tennessee State University. Students who take this course typically have little to no formal art, design, or technology training.

In this design based learning course, students are introduced to visual art principles, a two to three dimensional design process, and digital media technology tools. The course is relevant to engineering educators in that it combines art, design, and technology education. The course incorporates lessons from historic predecessor courses including: Technical Illustration, Engineering Drawing, and Industrial Illustration. Even though computer aided design, drafting, and rendering programs have replaced the above career fields; it is important that students learn their fundamental traditional methods as they are essential towards empowering their visual design thinking skills. Therefore, to prepare students for today’s entry level career opportunities, the course strategically integrates traditional artistic techniques and technical engineering graphics methods with modern day software tools and digital methods.

The course primarily seeks to provide students with: an applied understanding of visual design process stages, conceptualization, and computational visualization methods. The practical design process stages provide students with a structured way to visually learn and practice the art of design in a scientific or organized manner. The concept ideation and formation methods provide students with traditional visual mapping and concept sketching skills. The digital production methods provide students with computational tools and methods for developing ideas in 3D.

As the second in a series of papers describing ways to teach design (Wronecki, 2004) this paper outlines seven major design process stages and the corresponding visual thinking methods associated with each stage. In the course, these process stages and visual steps are used to structure and facilitate a semester long, student-directed, teacher-facilitated design project in which students are asked to design an innovative, inventive, or inspirational idea. Students are free to choose a project focus in their area of interest. Students in the Digital Media program tend to choose topics such as: character, product, and game design, and architectural, interior, and environmental visualization. Self motivation, individuation, and actualization are pedagogical drivers that dramatically improve the students’ work ethic and academic performance.

Scope The scope of this paper is intended to provide an outline of a design process and to describe visual thinking methods contained within. Therefore, the main goal of this research paper is to simply communicate the author’s approach towards teaching design. The results of this experimental research are by no means conclusive. Therefore, this paper neither substantiates nor validates the systematic methods contained within. However, some measure of assessing student performance when using the following methods can be ascertained by empirically peer reviewing examples of student design projects at the paper’s presentation session.

Wronecki, J. (2007, June), Teaching Visual Design Thinking Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015