This paper documents a research pilot study, it is a comparative investigation between an expert designer and a novice designer. The study used protocol analysis to examine design cognitive actions whilst using 3D digital media during the conceptual stage of design.  The empirical study found novice designers capable of managing a design process of complex objects due to the increase in their contribution of design strategies to the overall process. The possible reason for this may be due to using free-form modelling with accuracy aids found in computing facilities. This provides evidence to suggest automated computing should be encouraged within the pedagogical framework of architectural design.