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CAD Studies for a Modular Design Degree Course

Author: Nick Higgett


The School of Design and Manufacture's modular design degree Scheme at De Montfort University, Leicester is the largest of its kind in the UK with over 1000 students currently studying a variety of design related courses includinq:

The author is responsible for the management of the School's Computer- aided Design Laboratory (CADLab) and module leader for all the Information Technology (IT) and Computer-aided Design (CAD) modules available to students doing these design degrees. In this case study the author will discuss the following issues:


The school's modular design degree scheme has now been running for 3 years. It has allowed students to create a personal pattern of study, within certain constraints, leading to one of the following BA honours design degrees:

For the academic year 1994/95 the school scheme is being integrated into a new university wide modular degree scheme. With this integration, a new degree in Multimedia Design has also been introduced and the Graphic Design degree has been transferred to De Montfort University, Lincoln. These significant changes are allowing all modules to be reviewed and if necessary rewritten. However this case study is based on the practical experience of the last three years.

The Modular Design Degree Scheme

All students on the school scheme will normally do the equivalent of 8 single modules per year over two 15 week semesters. The students will normally do this number of modules at each of levels 1, 2 and 3 over their 3 years of full time study. The scheme itself comprises of three types of module from which the atildent chnoses a combination from each as follows:

The specialist design modules relate to the modules for a specific design discipline e.g. Fashion and Textiles Design or Three Dimensional Design. The elective modules relate to the wide variety of specialist technique, media, materials and process modules needed by a professional designer e.g. Textile technology, Spatial design theory or Photography. The core modules relate to those common modules which are suitable for all design students reaardless of their main design discipline. They include:

It is the philosophy, structure, content, assessment and delivery of the IT/CAD modules with which this case study is concerned.

The Underlying Philosophy

The level 1 IT/CAD, level 2 and level 3 CAD modules have been designed to complement each other and to progressively develop the IT/CAD knowledge and skills of all the design students. These modules have also been designed to complement the students other modules, in particular their specialist design modules allowing them to integrate CAD into the design process. In this students will be better prepared for their chosen design career paths where an appropriate understanding and experience of IT/CAD is today considered to be essential.

Level 1 IT/CAD

The first aim of this initial module, which is compulsory, is to give all the design students an introduction to the basic theory of computing and a broad appreciation of how computers are used in design and manufacture. The second aim is to give students hands on experience of a range of basic computer software in order to build a foundation for a more detailed study of CAD at level 2.

Even over the last 3 years it is noticeable that more and more of the students who have enroled onto the design courses have a greater knowledge, experience and interest in computing. This module is therefore, currently under review in order to ensure that it accommodates these students. However a majority of the design students still seem to have completed their prior education either without using a computer or having developed a strong dislike or even fear of it. These students with only elementary knowledge or computer phobia still therefore need to be catered for.

Level 2 CAD

The main aim of this module, which is optional, is to develop the students understanding of how CAD is used within their own design specialisation and how it is linked to the manufacturing process. The second aim is to give the students practical experience of several CAD systems appropriate to their design specialisation and to teach them how to use CAD as a design tool within the design process.

Level 3 CAD

The aim of this final module is to give the students the opportunity to apply their newly acquired CAD knowledge and skills to either a major design project or to a major investigation into some aspect of computing and design.

Module Structure, Content and Assessment

Level 1 IT/CAD

The students are introduced to the basics of computing and its use in design through a series of 12 lectures to groups of approximately 100 students at a time. The size of the group is dictated by the lecture rooms available. This programme, which includes the history of computing, basic computer-aided design hardware and software, is assessed through a computer based multiple choice test at the end of the year. The students are given experience of using a computer and some basic computer software through a series of weekly practicals. These practicals are in groups of approximately 40 students, the size being dictated in this case by the number of suitable machines available. The students are initially introduced to the computer system's graphical user interface (GUI) and also spend some time, if necessary, using a basic typing tutor in order to gain keyboard familiarity. They are then introduced in turn to word processing, colour painting and drawing and desktop publishing software. The student's ability to use these packages is assessed through 3 related practical assignments. Students will also get practical experience of using both black and white and colour printers and colour scanners. Besides these formal weekly practical sessions the students are allowed casual access to the school's computer laboratories to do computer based work such as word processing from any of the other modules.

Level 2 CAD

This module consists of a weekly practical or seminar in groups of approximately 20 students. The level 2 CAD groups unlike the mixed level 1 IT/CAD groups comprise of students of a specific design discipline either graphic design, fashion and textile design or three dimensional design. The group size is a direct consequence of the number of suitable CAD systems available. Students will examine the nature of CAD and the application of CAD in their particular design discipline through a number of seminars. They will gain practical experience of several professional CAD systems relevant to their design specialisation through the laboratory practicals. The student's understanding CAD and their ability to use it effectively is assessed through a number investigative and practical assignments. The students are also actively encouraged to use CAD, where appropriate, as a design tool in their specialist design modules. This is again achieved through student casual access to the school's computer laboratories.

Level 3 CAD

In this module students negotiate their own learning contract. This takes the form of either a major CAD practical project or a major investigation into some aspect of computing and design. The agreed project gives the students the opportunity to apply, further develop and refine the CADskills and knowledge that they have already acquired on the previous 2 modules. Projects that integrate with work the student is doing in their specialist design disciplines are positively encouraged as this integration is a major aim of this module. The module itself takes the form of weekly supervised practical workshops and individual tutorials. These are complemented by independent student CAD work. The work is assessed through a written report and presentation of either the CAD cractical work or the investigation.

CAD Hardware and Software

The School of Design and Manufacture has a centralised Computer-aided Design Laboratory (CADLab). The CADLab comprises of 2 adjoining computer rooms, supported by both CADLab academic and technical staff. The CADLab's academic staff are responsible for the delivery of all the School's taught IT and CAD modules with technical staff supervising casual access. The 2 computer rooms include an IBM PC laboratory and an Apple Macintosh laboratory. These consist of the following hardware and cnftware:


The IBM PC laboratory consists of 30 386 SX 16MHz 4Mb/40Mb computers, 9 486 DX 33MHz 8Mb/250Mb computers and 9 486 DX2 66MHz 8Mb/500Mb computers. Peripherals include 8 black and white inkjet printers, 2 colour inkjet printers,1 monochrome laser printer, 2 A3 colour thermal wax printers,1 A4 colour dye sublimation printer,1 A0 plotter, 2 A3 plotters and 2 A3 colour scanners. The Apple Macintosh laboratory consists of 26 LC 6Mb/40Mb computers, 4 11 CX 16Mb/40Mb computers, 1 11 X 16Mb/80Mb computer, 4 Centris AV 660 16Mb/500Mb computers and 4 Performa 630 16Mb/350 Mb computers. Peripherals include 2 monochrome laser printers connected to an appletalk network, 2 colour inkjet printers and 1 colour scanner.


Level 1 IT/CAD

All design students will be introduced to the following software in the IBM PC laboratory.

Word processing: Microsoft Works (Minimum requirement 386 SX)
Painting and drawing:Corel Paint and Corel Draw (Minimum requirement 386 SX)
Desktop Publishing: Aldus Pagemaker (Minimum requirement 386 SX)

Level 2 CAD

Graphic design students will be introduced to the following software in the Apple Macintosh laboratory.

Advanced Drawing: Aldus Freehand (Minimum requirement LC)
Advanced DTP: Quark Express (Minimum requirement LC)
Image Manipulation: Adobe Photoshop (Minimum requirement 11 CX)
Multimedia Authoring: Macromedia Director (Minimum requirement 11 CX)
Digital Editing: Adobe Premier (Minimum requirement 11 CX)

Three dimensional design students will be introduced to the following software in the IBM PC laboratory.

2D and 3D Draughting : Autodesk Autocad and AEC (Minimum requirement 486 DX)
3D Modelling and Animation :Autocad 3D Studio (Minimum requirement 486 DX)

Fashion design students will be introduced to the following software in the IBM PC laboratory.

Advanced Painting and Drawing : Corel Paint and Corel Draw (Minimum requirement 386 SX)
Pattern Design, Grading and Lay Planning : Ormus Fashion (Minimum requirement 386 SX)
Printed Textile Design and Fashion Illustration : Tex-design (Minimum requirement 486 DX)
Texture Mapping and Draping : Tex-dress (Minimum requirement 486 DX)
3D Shoe Design : Clarkes Shoemaster (Minimum requirement UNIX Workstation)

Level 3 CAD

See Level 2 CAD


As already mentioned, with the move to a new university wide modular scheme, all the IT/CAD modules are currently being reviewed. However this review process needs to be an ongoing one due 3 important factors, as follows:


The author would like to thank the following individuals for their help in writing this case study:

Dr. Brian Schofield, Carolyn Hardaker, Noel Healy, Brian Holton and special thanks to Chris Greensides.

Further Information

For further information concerning this case study please contact Nick Higgett as follows:

Tel: 0533 577566
Fax: 0533 577574

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