Research: Sketching


Sketching and diagramming— drawing freehand with a stylus — is an important part of exploring design alternatives and reasoning about designs. Yet computational tools do not support drawing and diagramming as a mode of communicating design knowledge—”visual language”. Under the rubrics of Electronic Cocktail Napkin and Back of an Envelope Design we investigated tools, techniques, and demonstration applications that incorporate drawing and sketching into computationally supported knowledge-based designing.

3 R’s Drawing and Design Computation

2004 A report on computational sketching software systems to support Recording, Reasoning, and Resolving in design.

Ambiguous Intentions

1996 Sketch software acquires information about ambiguity and precision, represents it internally, and echoes it to users visually through constraint driven edit behavior.

Design Amanuensis

2001 Constructing a machine-readable multimedia document from design speech and sketch actions, which can be replayed and searched.

Design Evaluator

2004 A freehand sketch system with design critiquing.

Digital Clay

1998 Sketch recognition software constructs three dimensional digital models from isometric drawings.

Drawing Analogies and Shape-Based Diagram Retrieval

1995… Sketch to retrieve items based on visual similarity.

Electronic Cocktail Napkin

1994 … An environment for sketching and diagramming in conceptual design served as a platform for various investigations.

Furniture Factory: A Sketch-based System for Fabrication

2006 A sketch design system helps novices construct physical furniture models using a laser cutter.

Light Pen

2003 A lighting design assistant driven by sketching on 3D virtual models.


1999 A server-client object oriented draw program for collaborative design, with support for design hisory.

Pen Computing

1996, 1997 Two papers on mobile pen computing.

Shape Emergence

2001 A computer based assistant uses pattern recognition to anticipate human designers’ perception of emergent shapes.

Sketch It, Make It

2012 A sketch design tool for design for laser cutters and 3D printers, now Zotebook.

Sketching in Design

1999 Two studies on architectural design and drawing.

Space Pen

2001-2004 Annotation and drawing on (and inside) 3D models to exchange text and sketched annotations for review.


1994 A pen-based draw program combines recognition of hand-drawn glyphs with maintenance of spatial relations.

Thinking with Diagrams in Architectural Design

2001, 2009 A paper on the use of freehand diagrams in architectural design.

Visual Languages and Visual Thinking

2009 Sketch based software should recognize drawing as visual language. Keynote for Eurographics/ACM Symposium on Sketch Based Interaction and Modeling.