Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Karthik Ramani

Committee Member 1

Niklas Elmqvist

Committee Member 2

Lorraine Kisselburgh

Committee Member 3

Jitesh Panchal


Collaborative design ideation is typically characterized by informal acts of sketching, annotation, and discussion. Designers have always used the pencil-and-paper medium for this activity, partly because of the flexibility of the medium, and partly because the ambiguous and ill-defined nature of conceptual design cannot easily be supported by computers. However, recent computational tools for conceptual design have leveraged the availability of hand-held computing devices for creating and sharing ideas. In order to provide computer support for collaborative ideation in a way that augments traditional media rather than imitates it, it is necessary to study the affordances made available by digital media for this process, and to study designers' cognitive and collaborative processes when using such media. In this thesis, we present tools and methods to help make sense of unstructured verbal and sketch data generated during collaborative design, with a view to better understand these collaborative and cognitive processes. This thesis has three main contributions.