Virtuality to Reality: Furniture Designing through Digital Prototyping

Presented by: Tilanka Chandrasekera and So-Yeon Yoon

Studies on physical prototyping or model making in design have shown to increase fixation (Christensen, and Schunn, 2007).  Designers may tend to fixate on the design during the time that they spend on making the physical prototype. This is considered as a sunk-cost effect in physical prototyping (Viswanathan and Lindsey, 2013). Digital prototypes maybe an approach to alleviate any fixation effects caused through physical prototyping, due to their ambiguous nature and time needed to generate them.

While identifying digital prototyping as a valid method in problem solving this study explores the connection students make when translating the virtual models into physical reality using digital fabrication. 

Two sections of an early interior design studio, with a total of 29 students were selected as subjects for this study. They were provided with a simple interior design problem and as a part of that design problem they were asked to design a piece of furniture that corresponded to their overall design concept. Students used the sketchup software to model the 3D virtual models of the piece of furniture. These furniture pieces ranged from Chairs, Bunk beds, Tables to Closets. Then students used a desktop 3D printer to print the model.

20 students out of the 29, answered a questionnaire that was based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) regarding their use of the software and hardware in 3D printing. The results suggest that students found digital printing to be easy to use and very useful for their future carriers as designers. There was a positive correlation between Perceived Ease of Use (PEU) and Intention for using in their profession later on, as well as a positive correlation between Perceived Usability (PU) and Intention for using in their profession later on. Future directions in this study are seen in duplicating the study with more subjects as well as comparing with traditional and virtual modeling through a between groups study.

The anticipated results of the study are expected to contribute to design education to understand the implication of using different mediums to express design intentions, and to better understand how different mediums provide means of alleviating fixation in the creative design process. With the advent of new technology it is important to identify how the profession can adopt them to be used effectively and efficiently. Providing students with knowledge on how to use these tools in school give them an added advantage when they go in to the profession.


  • Christensen, T, and Schunn, C. (2007). The Relationship of Analogical Distance to Analogical Function and Preinventive Structure: The Case of Engineering Design. Memory & cognition 35(1), 29-38.
  • Viswanathan, K., and Linsey, J. (2013). Role of Sunk Cost in Engineering Idea Generation: An Experimental Investigation." Journal of Mechanical Design 135(12), 121002.