Abstract

The complexity of today’s design problems—the global economy, rate of change in new technologies, the challenges of sustainability development—requires diverse design teams, comprised of multiple disciplines as well as multiple cultures, to look at broader and different perspectives and larger scopes of investigation. Due to the multilayered and multifaceted interactions between team members, effective communication and collaboration among people in multidisciplinary design teams becomes critical to ensure a project’s success, in particular, and for innovation, in general. Research shows that one of the most important aspects of collaboration is effective information sharing—shared knowledge and shared understanding among all team members (Citera, et. al., 1995). Design teams traditionally share information verbally as well as visually through representations such as drawings and sketches, three-dimensional models, project walls, or conceptual maps. Consequently, an important aspect of communication is the role that visual thinking and visual communication practices play in the success of the design team. The exploration and finding of a current frame of reference for creating and utilizing visual tools for communication, capable of serving as a common means of expression for multidisciplinary teams, is the purpose of this research paper. To that end, individual field focused interviews were performed with distinct groups of stakeholders from the business, design and engineering professions. The interview included visual participatory research methods that prompted visual responses and reflected the interviewee’s own use of visual methods for communication. In every case, visual means proved to be valuable thinking and communication assets. Two specific dimensions of communication that allowed team members to define, generate, and communicate innovation opportunities—storytelling and representation—were identified. The research findings and interpretations also generated conclusions and future opportunities for the design manager, for the instructors of design, and for the design, engineering and business professionals.

Keywords:

Collective Innovation, Multidisciplinary Collaboration, Visual Thinking, Design Management, Design Thinking

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Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

Visual Means for Collaboration Across Disciplines

The complexity of today’s design problems—the global economy, rate of change in new technologies, the challenges of sustainability development—requires diverse design teams, comprised of multiple disciplines as well as multiple cultures, to look at broader and different perspectives and larger scopes of investigation. Due to the multilayered and multifaceted interactions between team members, effective communication and collaboration among people in multidisciplinary design teams becomes critical to ensure a project’s success, in particular, and for innovation, in general. Research shows that one of the most important aspects of collaboration is effective information sharing—shared knowledge and shared understanding among all team members (Citera, et. al., 1995). Design teams traditionally share information verbally as well as visually through representations such as drawings and sketches, three-dimensional models, project walls, or conceptual maps. Consequently, an important aspect of communication is the role that visual thinking and visual communication practices play in the success of the design team. The exploration and finding of a current frame of reference for creating and utilizing visual tools for communication, capable of serving as a common means of expression for multidisciplinary teams, is the purpose of this research paper. To that end, individual field focused interviews were performed with distinct groups of stakeholders from the business, design and engineering professions. The interview included visual participatory research methods that prompted visual responses and reflected the interviewee’s own use of visual methods for communication. In every case, visual means proved to be valuable thinking and communication assets. Two specific dimensions of communication that allowed team members to define, generate, and communicate innovation opportunities—storytelling and representation—were identified. The research findings and interpretations also generated conclusions and future opportunities for the design manager, for the instructors of design, and for the design, engineering and business professionals.

 

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