Date of Award

Summer 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Niklas E. Elmqvist

Committee Member 1

Karthik Ramani

Committee Member 2

Lorraine Kisselburgh


In recent times, mobile devices are becoming an integral part of our daily life. Software applications on these handheld devices are successfully migrating the traditional paper-based activities such as reading news, books, and even navigating through maps, onto the digital medium. While these applications allow information access anywhere and anytime, there is still a necessity for repurposing these digital media to support content/information creation especially in domains such as industrial design where paper-based activities are common. To utilize direct-touch tablets for collaborative conceptual design, we studied their affordances and iteratively developed a web-based wiki system, named skWiki. In this thesis, we first report an evaluation of the impact of utilizing a capacitive stylus for tracing and sketching on direct-touch tablets. This study uncovers the differences in quantitative and qualitative performance of the tablet medium compared to the paper medium when using a stylus (pen) or finger input for both tracing and sketching. While paper performed better overall, we found that the tablet medium, when used with a capacitive stylus, performed comparably to the paper medium for sketching tasks. These findings can guide sketch application designers in developing an appropriate interaction design for various input methods. In order to explore the advantages of the ubiquity of information generated on digital media, we developed Sketchbox, an Android application for sketching and sharing ideas using Dropbox as the storage cloud. An evaluation of the usage patterns of this application in a collaborative toy design scenario provided necessary guidelines for developing the skWiki system. skWiki overcomes the drawbacks of traditional wiki software, that are used as design repositories, by providing a rich editor infrastructure for sketching, text editing, and image editing. Apart from these features, skWiki provides a higher degree of freedom in sharing (cloning, branching, and merging) different versions of a sketch at various data granularities by introducing the concept of paths for maintaining revisions in a collaborative design process. We evaluated the utility of skWiki through a user study by comparing constrained and unconstrained sharing models. Furthermore, skWiki was used by the students of toy design and product design courses for both collaborative ideation and design activities. We discuss the findings and qualitative feedback from the evaluation of skWiki, and potential features for the next version of this tool.