Like other aspects of interior design, detailing is, for the most part, graphic problem solving. Designers use various types of graphics methods to study and resolve the issues they face. This is a cyclical process in which the designer begins with a thought, no matter how minor or undeveloped, sketches a representation of it on paper, looks at the image, and thinks about it and its implications.

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The cycle repeats, with each cycle refining the image until a complete resolution of the issue being studied is resolved. With each cycle three things, or some combination of the three, happen. The designer explores ideas, learns something, or makes a decision.
There are many ways that someone may represent their thoughts, but it usually takes the form of marks on paper, typically tracing paper. When the problem being investigated is a design or construction detail, multiple layers of tracing paper should be used to help refine the design.

The first sketch may be a very rough idea of the solution, while successive tracings refine the image, retaining (tracing) those elements that seem to work and drawing new lines to reflect new or modified ideas. One of the most important aspects of this type of graphic problem solving is that it must be done with the hand and on paper.

The problem-solving process works in a unique way when eye, hand, paper, and brain are intimately connected through this technique. Contrary to what some designers may believe, a computer is not a good instrument for this type of work. Like using a sharp pencil, the computer, regardless of the drawing or sketching program being used, slows the process of recording ideas and is too precise early in the problem-solving process. Manipulating a computer generally gets in the way of the rapid, multilevel thought that the brain is capable of.

Although there are several good sketching programs available, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, the best method is still marker on tracing paper. No other method can respond to the variety of graphic methods of representing problems that designers use. A computer is most useful when a designer alternates between paper sketching for rough ideas and computer-aided design for exploring three-dimensional models that can be quickly developed and manipulated to view the image from multiple points of view.

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