The communication bottleneck in knitwear design: Analysis and computing solutions

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38 Scopus citations


Communication between different members of a design team often poses difficulties. This paper reports on the results of a detailed empirical study of communication in over twenty British, German and Italian knitwear companies. The knitwear design process is shared by the designers, who plan the visual and tactile appearance of the garments, and the technicians, who have to realise the garment on a knitting machine. They comprise a typical but small design team whose members have different backgrounds and expertise. Knitwear design allows a detailed analysis of the causes and effects of communication breakdown. Designers specify their designs inaccurately, incompletely and inconsistently; technicians interpret these specifications according to their previous experience of similar designs, and produce garments very different from the designers' original intentions. Knitwear is inherently difficult to describe, as no simple and complete notation exists; and the relationship between visual appearance and structure and technical properties of knitted fabric is subtle and complex. Designers and technicians have different cognitive approaches and are very different people. At the same time the interaction between designers and technicians is badly managed in many companies. This paper argues that improving the accuracy and reliability of designers' specifications would significantly enhance the design process. It concludes with a description of the architecture of an intelligent automatic design system that generates technically correct designs from the designers' customary notations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-74
Number of pages46
JournalComputer Supported Cooperative Work: CSCW: An International Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Automatic design
  • Communication
  • Design
  • Ethnography
  • Knitwear
  • Notation
  • Team working


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