Scaffolding Fashion Design Sketchbook Practice in a Creative Design Process Class

McKinney, Ellen
McKinney, Ellen
Dong, Huanjiao
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A series of assignments was developed to teach students skills to use a sketchbook for fashion design research. These assignments were developed in response to a survey of fashion research textbooks that revealed most books provide examples of fashion designers’ sketchbooks but lack information about (a) the types and sources of content, (b) how it was created, or (c) how it could be used in the fashion design process. There was little explicit instruction for novice fashion designers (students) on how to do fashion design research to create sketchbook content, and in turn, to use that content as the basis for creative apparel design. There was also scant academic literature on the “how to” of sketchbooks. Green (2006), who studied fine artists’ use of sketchbooks indicated that the sketchbook is a practical representation tool for artists to present ideas and research perceptions.

Students’ development of sketchbook design research skills was evident to the instructor and graduate teaching assistant through the quality of their completed sketchbooks, mood boards, and original art-to-wear ensembles, in comparison to work produced in prior semesters, when the assignment series was not used. Students evaluated their learning and use of these skills in the first art-to-wear ensemble through an online survey. All the students indicated positive attitudes toward using sketchbooks, think sketchbooks should be required throughout the fashion design curriculum, and would like to use them more. They found text spider diagrams to be useful in “help[ing] me layout all of my ideas and brainstorm new ones.”, with 64.71% using them. Students’ top three sources for primary research were fabric manipulation experiments (88.24%), museums (58.82%) and art galleries (47.06%). For 94.72% of the students, photography was their favorite way to document primary research as it can represent perspective and helps transition things that the students like into real, possible designs. The most used secondary research sources were: the Internet (88.24%), online magazines, blogs and social media sites (82.35%) and books (76.47%). Students felt that social media sites and videos were effective for creative process as the combination allowed them to triangulate a variety of interpretations into a single concept. The favored documentation types for secondary research were: sketching (94.12%), photography (82.35%) and creating a collage (52.94%). Sketching allowed them to think through all the ideas and create something more innovative. Students’ responses indicated that they have learned to use and value in their fashion design process a range of primary and secondary research sources and documentation methods.

Students also demonstrated positive impacts from learning specific ways of using their collected research: for example, “[Triangulation] really helped me bring all my research together”, “Juxtaposition helped me learn how to channel my ideas and how to expand on them successfully”, “[Editing and mood board skills learned] helped me narrow down my idea to a single aesthetic and keep things cohesive as I reference it in designing”, “Pulling the strongest excerpts, images, and colors from everything else helped me to form a very strong theme”. Given these positive outcomes in the students’ work and self-assessments, we plan to continue this fashion design sketchbook research assignment series. We are also considering implementing similar assignments at lower levels in the fashion design curriculum.