Re-shaping the process of design & making: shifting the relationship between designer and client in the context of digital knitwear design and production systems
New technologies have created a gap in designer knowledge and understanding of the design capabilities and production potential of new CAD software driven equipment. Significantly, within some sectors of the fashion industry, there is an assumption that CAD software run production technologies can eliminate the need for a designer, with production-based technologies “driven” by a technician.
Our work with the garment industry supports the emergence of an assumption amongst production machinery manufacturers that CAD software systems can eliminate design input and associated costs (Mohammed, May, & Alavi, 2008; Eckert, Cross, & Johnson, 2000; Eckert, Kelly, & Stacey, 1999). CAD driven production technologies such as the Shima Seiki WholeGarment® knitting system have “predefined garment templates” (preregistered garment shapes in Shima Seiki’s terms) embedded in the software. The manufacturer of this machine claims that these preregistered garment shapes can minimize the creativity gap between the designer and technician. However it is our experience that the system is too complex for cost effective implementation of design innovation.
Recent developments in CAD driven knitwear production systems have resulted in changes to the conventional relationships between the client, the designer and the technician. In this context, we have identified a new role, the “designer-interpreter”. Designer-interpreter denotes a professional knitwear designer with additional training in managing computerized seamless knitting machines. Research carried out at Curtin University has identified this as a creative role that is required to optimize design and production using computerized flat V-bed seamless knitting systems.
Within current applications of computerised V-bed seamless knitting systems, the textile and garment design processes are fully integrated and cannot be effectivelymanipulated in isolation. There is a current assumption that a knitwear technician can be a design-interpreter. However the designer-interpreter is required to facilitate the creative integration of textile and garment design. This is achieved through the application of their specialist knowledge of knit design, CAD driven software and machine operation. The designer-interpreter can work with either another designer or the end user to develop fully customized garments. With the creative support of the designer-interpreter, a consumer without any design background effectively becomes a “designer”. This system repositions the relationship between designer, manufacturer and consumer.
This paper presents research carried out by the Fashion Design & Research HUB at Curtin University into the creative potential of the design process using computerized flat V-bed seamless knitting technology for the client with little or no garment design experience. It reflects on observations made during workshops, of the changing nature in the relationships between designer-interpreter, client, design process and technology.