The Communication Bottleneck in Knitwear Design: Analysis and Computing Solutions
Communication between different members of a designteam often poses difficulties. This paper reports onthe results of a detailed empirical study ofcommunication in over twenty British, German andItalian knitwear companies. The knitwear designprocess is shared by the designers, who plan thevisual and tactile appearance of the garments, and thetechnicians, who have to realise the garment on aknitting machine. They comprise a typical but smalldesign team whose members have different backgroundsand expertise. Knitwear design allows a detailedanalysis of the causes and effects of communicationbreakdown. Designers specify their designsinaccurately, incompletely and inconsistently;technicians interpret these specifications accordingto their previous experience of similar designs, andproduce garments very different from the designers'original intentions. Knitwear is inherently difficultto describe, as no simple and complete notationexists; and the relationship between visual appearanceand structure and technical properties of knittedfabric is subtle and complex. Designers andtechnicians have different cognitive approaches andare very different people. At the same time theinteraction between designers and technicians is badlymanaged in many companies. This paper argues thatimproving the accuracy and reliability of designers'specifications would significantly enhance the designprocess. It concludes with a description of thearchitecture of an intelligent automatic design systemthat generates technically correct designs from thedesigners' customary notations.