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Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby tommyle » October 5th, 2017, 3:30 pm


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I know of a few great designers I really respect, that would go straight into CAD for ideation instead of actual sketching.
Of course I understand the use of underlays and that's fine.
But they would add a few sketchy looking lines to their already built model and call that a sketch.

Is this something that is accepted in other design studios?
Should it be?

Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby Mrog » October 5th, 2017, 3:53 pm


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Does it serve the purpose? Does it communicate and sell the design? If he is a designer that you really respect as you said I assume the answer is "yes". Therefore the answer is: yes, totally acceptable.

You can question the tools if the results are not fulfilling the requirements. As long as it works it is none of your business how people prefer to work.
Work smart, not hard.

Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby FH13 » October 5th, 2017, 4:04 pm


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Yes it is accepted, but it all depends on the project.
If you are starting a project from scratch and the shape is not defined or very open to interpretation, then I would recommend sketching so that you don't get bogged down.
If the project requires minimal tweaks, or is a very geometric design, or proportions are crucial then I wouldn't be afraid to start with CAD.
A good example is a medical cart. It had a bunch of components coming together and a lot of fabricated parts rather than injection molding. I created a 3D CAD model and rendered it and then sketched on top of that modifying the extrusion profiles, adding details, sketching in the few molded parts, etc.
Whatever tells the story more efficiently.

Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby rkuchinsky » October 5th, 2017, 4:14 pm

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Not cheating, but probably also not good or effective or efficient design.

Are the designs good? How many designs are being explored? How different are the design options? I'd bet anything I can do more quick sketches and variations in 10min than anyone can do in CAD.

Adding lines to a CAD model is not a sketch. That's just a waste of time.

Sketching on top of a CAD underlay of competents or reference geometry for scale and dimensions is a different thing than going straight to CAD.

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Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby Nap » October 5th, 2017, 8:06 pm


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Do you have to be GREAT in drawing to be a (industrial) designer? I ask!
Saw projects presented with hand drawings and others with "photoshoped" sketches, personally it's all about communication.

Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby ralphzoontjens » October 6th, 2017, 1:58 am

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Experienced designers have often gone through hundreds of ideation rounds exploring form and design details.
If you have a good grasp of the product, you have a mental library with hundreds of potentialities and to draw these out would be pointless if you already can make an informed decision as to what the product is going to be. If there are limited resources, you may well step to creating the production file from step 1. However for more complex products we would always want to see some sketches and explorations - as long as you can reason towards the chosen design. If it is just for communication or artist impression purposes, we often start in CAD and add a sketchy feel if that is what the client desires.
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Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby tommyle » October 6th, 2017, 8:20 am


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The consensus seems to be that it's not cheating.
That ideation can be in the form of CAD as long as it's effective and efficient.

Totally get it, the end goal is to design good products/experiences after all, not just draw nice pictures.

Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby FH13 » October 6th, 2017, 12:13 pm


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I would say if it's an organic shape or there is potential for form development then always start with sketching.

Another good example of when to use cad and a quick rendering is IF your concept is a basic geometric shape (think consumer electronics) and you want to convey the subtleties of a precise monolithic shape in a high gloss finish or with a play of 2 materials. It would be easier to model it and render it than to try and sketch and render using markets and pencils. You can do this and then use Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro to add buttons or partlines over the rendering, etc.

The times I do this I always go in and add details digitally to give it that "sketch" look. If you leave it untouched then the client may think it's a finished concept.

Re: Are "CAD" sketches "cheating" ?

Postby yo » October 6th, 2017, 2:04 pm

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I hesitate to say anything is cheating. If it is the honest efficient way to explore an idea, than you should do it. That said, I don't think CAD is truly the most efficient way to explore any idea for the following reasons:

1) it encourages depth exploration vs breadth, potentially locking you into a solution and trying to fix it vs finding the best solution
2) it is a solitary activity compared to sketching which can be done in groups and easily shared, talked about, and feedback/workshoped
3) your form language tends to be highly dependent on your platform/skill level. Might be fine while minimalism is in, but it will change.


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