Spatial Visualization Skills of Apparel Industry Professionals

By Ahn, Insook; Workman, Jane | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Spatial Visualization Skills of Apparel Industry Professionals


Ahn, Insook, Workman, Jane, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


This study examined spatial visualization skills and leisure activities of apparel industry professionals. Spatial visualization skills were measured using the Apparel Spatial Visualization Test and the Paper Folding Test. Twenty-three participants completed the tests and provided demographic information. On average, professionals used spatial visualization skills 47% of the time at work and considered these skills very important to their jobs. In their leisure time, professionals engaged in many arts and needlework spatial activities. Findings support the importance of spatial visualization skills in apparel industry occupations. FCS instructors can structure their courses to develop and integrate spatial visualization skills for students.

"Highly talented and creative craftspeople and technicians are as important as highly skilled engineers and other professionals" (Higbee & Taylor, 1990, p. 349). The domain-specific talents of students in career and technical education (CTE) program areas (e.g., creating with their hands, designing clothing) are as important to society as talents in traditional academic areas (Dayton & Feldhusen, 1989). Gifted and talented youth have been discouraged from pursuing CTE program areas because many educators and parents believe they are for students who cannot succeed in academic programs (Higbee & Taylor, 1990). "Many talented students receive limited vocational and technical education that integrates academic knowledge with technical skills and career exploration" (Greenan, Wu, & Broering, 1995, p. 411). Spatial learners may underperform in traditional educational settings (Gohm, Humphreys, & Yao, 1998; Shea, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2001) but thrive in CTE and they may be recognized as having domain-specific talent (e.g., in apparel design).

Many technical and professional occupations require spatial visualization skills (e.g., artists, architects, astronomers, auto mechanics, biologists, carpenters, cartographers, computer technicians, engineers, geologists, interior designers, mathematicians, musicians, and physical scientists) (Hartman & Bertoline, 2005). For example, interior designers use spatial visualization skills when they create floor plans, consider traffic flow, read blueprints, and do computer drafting.

To provide encouragement, to modify activities to spatial learning styles, and to help students attain their potential, family and consumer sciences (FCS) teachers need to identify talented students. One way to identify them is by observing students in the classroom using the definition provided by the U.S. Department of Education (1993, p. 26):

These children and youth exhibit high performance capability in intellectual, creative, and/or artistic areas, possess an unusual leadership capacity, or excel in specific academic fields. They require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools. Outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human behavior.

Spatial ability has been recognized as requisite for successful careers in the creative arts (Humphreys, Lubinski, & Yao, 1993). O "NET is a database that defines occupations and provides information about various aspects of an occupation, for example, tasks, abilities, and skills. Based on responses to questionnaires from three sources-workers, occupation experts, and occupation analysts-tasks, skills, and abilities are rated in importance on a scale of 1 to 100 for each occupation. Of the 52 abilities listed, spatial visualization was ranked in the top 10 for apparel designers, with a rating of 66/100 in importance (in comparison, originality was rated 75/100). For apparel patternmakers, spatial visualization ability was ranked first and rated 78/100 in importance (originality was rated 66/100) (0*Net Descriptors, 2004). Spatial tasks are essential in apparel design. The two-dimensional to three-dimensional pattern-to-garment sequence is a visual and tangible transformation that reinforces (or corrects) mental images formed in the apparel design process (Workman & Caldwell, 2007). …

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