Hand gestures as communication facilitators in design: a research based design study to understand the role of hand gestures during group design communication
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The design discipline is reliant on communication as a means to express and share ideas during the creation of products. Design communication can take place in two distinct settings: formal communication presentations and informal interaction communication. Group design communication involves the communication of various attributes of a design. Attributes such as the scale, shape and functionality of a product are communicated. Designers employ various mechanisms including verbal, non-verbal (e.g. hand gestures), and physical tools (e.g. sketches and models) to communicate attributes. Although the verbal and physical tools are commonly used effective tools, hand gestures remain underused. Yet, hand gestures are extensions of the human mind, which may reveal thoughts that verbal communication may not be able to communicate (McNeil, 1992). Hand gestures have the potential to reveal thoughts and if used as an interface mechanism, can augment the information space. As such, hand gestures may facilitate design communication within a group. This study explores the potential of hand gestures as tools in design communication. Moreover; the purpose of this study is to understand how gestures can facilitate the design communication that occurs within a group. A two-phase study was proposed: a research phase and a design phase. During the research phase, ethnographic research in design education environments was conducted to understand what gestures are produced and how they are used during formal and informal design communication settings. The data collected was analyzed and categorized to reveal quantitative and qualitative results. Survey studies were also conducted to validate the hand gesture meaning. The data was used to create design guidelines that directed the design phase, where concepts used hand gestures as interface mechanisms, to augment the experience of a design information exchange. The significance of this project is to generate new knowledge to be applied to the development of more natural technological systems where gestures are used as an alternative to current input devices (e.g. mouse and keyboard) for navigation and manipulation of design material amongst a group. The goal was to improve the communication between designers and their materials and enhance the experience of distributing and receiving design information.