Serif in Education

Computer aided design – digital development coupled with creativity

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis or optimisation of a design.

Architects began using computer-aided design (CAD) programs in the early 1980s to help design and draft bold new structures. Nowadays, CAD is used for many applications – most famously for special effects and computer animation in movies, computer games and advertisements.  It is also extensively used in major project works in the automotive and aerospace industries, industrial, architectural and mechanical design, and most types of manufacturing.

In schools, CAD design is probably most commonly used for circuit designs.  The software might use system blocks to identify which components are needed, or it might help to generate the design by calculating which components are required and laying out the circuit diagram.  Once there is a potential design, the electronic circuit is modelled and then tested using CAD software before a physical model is made. Different colours and textures can be added to the model and the product can be rotated to show different views.

Benefits of CAD design in industry are wide.  Using CAD systems can reduce errors in manufacturing with simulation tools that can allow you to do things such as inspect the machinery process and “fix” errors in tools and make what is usually called “tool modifications”. With the production of tools costing up to hundreds of thousands of pounds this can be a costly advantage, outweighing the high costs of the CAD systems to purchase in the first place.

CAD can also increase programming potential and increase client satisfaction as well as allow greater productivity.  Features such as mould tools can be created with an accuracy that is almost impossible by hand, and as the process is fully automated and a lot faster than other methods and systems, lead times can be reduced.  It also helps create a “bill of material” which is a list of everything you need for the design and build of that product.

For students looking for a career in CAD design, where do they start?  It can take years to master the art of something so specialist, but for young students getting to grips with creating vector images may be a good place to begin developing their skills.

CAD output is mainly in the form of electronic files.  These can be then used as a basis for print, machinery or manufacturing operations. It can be used to create curves and figures in 2D or surfaces and solid objects in 3D.  Cad often uses something called “vector-based graphics” to depict objects. 

Vector based graphics are unlike JPEG’s, and GIFs as they are made up of paths of tools such as lines, square and triangles, rather than grids of pixels.  Because of their design and high file quality they can be scaled to larger sizes without losing image quality. These vector objects can also be imported into the program and used as part of CAD.  

A recent real life example of this is an advertising campaign I saw by a manufacturing company.  They needed a picture of a washroom but they didn’t have the means to be able to take a photo of a particular washroom they had in mind.  Their camera wasn’t high enough quality – they didn’t have a large enough washroom – they didn’t have the right lighting or their products in situ.  Instead, they designed a suitable environment using CAD and imported the vector images in of the products they wanted on the walls.  This gave them the perfect image to use in their print campaign across their adverts and on their print materials.  They could also then change the angles of the image to create different views, zoom in, and use the files to create moving objects for videos and web. 

You do not have to be trained in CAD software to be able to create vector images.  There are products that can be used to create vector based images that are easy to navigate and understand for children of school age. One of these is DrawPlus X6, which offers the complete drawing and editing experience. Simple vector drawing tools help you create custom lines, shapes and curves, with advanced tools for targeted drawing, merging and blending.  Or you can import existing artwork into DrawPlus and convert or re-draw as vector files, using tools such as trace.  These can then be imported like above into CAD and used for illustrative purposes in your lessons or for actual real life working examples. 

Have an example of a vector image or logo created using the Serif Design Suite?  Send them to us at: