Contribution of smartpens to design studies in capturing design process

The paper focuses on technical and methodological aspects of using smartpens to capture sketching activities in the idea generation stage. Aiming to consider a more effective way to capture designers’ decisions, moves, verbal and non-verbal cues; the paper attempts to provide a critical appraisal of how smartpen-based recording system are able to improve small-scale observational studies’ rigorousness and increases richness of data. Comparison of conventional pen-and-video and smartpen devices are illustrated, by conducting two think-aloud design sessions using both mechanisms. Advantages and disadvantages will be analysed to provide balance views of the two tools. In general, both are able to capture sequences of thoughts, including moving through one page to another. Preliminary findings show that smartpens are somewhat superior in terms of: obtaining unobstructed views of the sketching process as result of participants’ hand/shadow or glare, pencast (replayed video) aids exploration of design strategies investigation, auto-synchronised thinking aloud (verbal) and sketching (actions) foster the effectiveness of study, minimal use of a single recording device and also possibly promote exploration in shading, textual aids, contextual aids and other cues of sketches. However, pen-and-video tools are more efficient at capturing hand gestures. Some recommendations for future studies are also suggested.