Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Mary Baker


Artists and designers typically utilize sketching during the early stages of the design process because it provides them with an opportunity to transfer ideas from their head onto paper, computer, or mobile device. Sketching is regarded by researchers in the field of design to be an essential part of the design process.

The existing research in this field is focused on comparing paper and pencil sketches with sketches completed on computers. There is a void in the literature examining sketching completed on mobile devices like the Apple iPad. Therefore, this study aimed to fill that void.

The purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of graphic design students’ use of iPads for sketching activities. The experiences and perceptions of 10 graphic design students who completed a sketching activity using iPads, were examined during the spring and fall semesters of 2016 at a university in the Upper-Midwest.

Qualitative phenomenological research methods were used in the study. Data was gathered from interviews and from analysis of the participants’ iPad sketches. The general categories for the participants’ perspectives included background information, design workflow, attitudes on sketching, experience using the iPads, and quality of the iPad sketches. Three themes emerged from an analysis of the data.

The first theme addressed the reasons why students preferred sketching with paper and pencil. The second theme explained the benefits students found when sketching on iPads. Finally, theme three expounded on alternative idea generation techniques that could be accomplished on iPads.