Good sketching skills are important in any design process, and something truly needed in the design industry today. While working in the design industry, I have seen many young designers give up on sketching because they think they cannot do it.
The truth is sketching is an activity that requires constant practice to perfect. Therefore the will to practice is essential in helping you succeed, hopefully to the point where sketching becomes second nature to you. Or at the very least, you would get to the point where it would be easy to visualize a design in your mind.
One good way to improve your drawing is to use good sketches and sketch techniques to inspire and motivate you. So here are some design sketch references and sources that I have found both helpful and meaningful.
1. Design Sketching by Erik Olofsson and Klara Sjolen.
The excellent collection of design sketch explorations makes this book worth buying. It features 24 of the best designs from the Umea Institute of Design (Sweden), one of Europe’s best design schools. Well-known for their good design sketching skills, this book features many strong designs that have been done in various mediums (pens, pencils, markers) and computer programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.
2. Learning Curves by Klara Sjolen and Allan Macdonald
From the same publisher that brought you Design Sketching, Learning Curves is a follow-up book targeted to take design sketchers to the next level by helping them to really learn how to sketch.
The book includes samples of sketching work of over 60 professional (product, industrial and transportation) designers from around the world. Structured more like a comprehensive list of hints and tips, designers can quickly find help in improving specific areas of their sketching abilities. You can find great tips such as sketching reflections, playing with line weights, constructing sketch scenes, creating exciting viewpoints and even workflow improvements such as generating more ideas via sketching etc.
The authors hope that this new approach is more meaningful and refreshing than the more usual tutorial route. However for people like me, I’ll just be reading it from cover to cover, and you know what? You should too.
3. Carl Liu’s Design Book
Possibly one of the best design sketchbook for industrial designers, Carl Liu’s book is a collection of his many design sketches from his career in design. Working with reputable design companies like Astro Studios and Disney, book show cases ideation sketches, presentations, exploded views and storyboards done with his signature quick sketch and rendering style.
If you can’t get your hands on his book, visiting his portfolio on his website, will definitely inspire you to practice your drawing further.
4. Concept Design Books by Scott Robertson
Known for his strong futuristic product, transportation and city concepts, Scott Robertson creates great design work that exists far beyond anyone’s imagination. On his Drawthrough website, there are design sketching DVDs available, which shows vivid demonstrations of Scott Robertson sketching skills and covers topics such as perspective and proportion.
However if you want something to hold in your hand, his concept design books are a good alternative. Here are a few of his more popular ones.
5. Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell.
Yep, it’s that Dick Powell. I believe this became an instant classic, as it was probably the first of its kind in the sketching or presentation skills category. This all-rounder book covers all presentation techniques starting from sketch, to marker rendering, and finally to presentation renderings. I actually got a chance to speak to Dick about his iconic book, and after his long embarrassed groan, he told me that after “hello”, every Industrial Designers he has met has told him they have read it. You should too.
6. Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers by Koos Eissen and Roselien Steur.
Now into its 5th reprinting, this successful reference tome houses a great collection of sketches and drawings contributed by Industrial Design professionals from all over the world. Not only that, there is a great collection of drawing tutorials like varying the line widths, vanishing points, and shading etc. at the beginning of the book.
7. Analog Dreams by Michale DiTullo
Michael DiTullo, famed Core 77 sketch guru, former Nike Design Director and currently Frog’s creative director, has self-published a collection of 120 design sketches from a decade of work as an Industrial Designer. In addition to his vast range of footwear sketches (something he is known for), he shares his thoughts on how to get better at sketch visualization and creating strong visual (design) languages. Buy his book at Blurb.
If you are interested to see more of his design process, check out his design visualization sketch he did exclusively for us at our sister site >think>draw>make>. Thanks for doing what you do Michael.
8. Sketching Videos from Feng Zhu’s FZD Design School
While technically not a design book, Feng Zhu sketch tutorials should not be missed for any aspiring design sketcher. He has a great range of inspirational concept sketches that has driven the environmental or character designs of movies and games such as Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Transformers, Command and Conquer 3, Sims 3 etc.
Check out their Youtube Channel as well: FZDSCHOOL
In today’s design industry, designing in sketch or in 2D is still a very powerful tool of communication. It is never easy to master it, but with constant practice and a library of good references, you can achieve it. So do enjoy the process!
For more great books on design, check out our awesome article: 30 Essential Books for Industrial Designers.
This article was originally co written with guest author Sharon Goh and published on 23rd July 2007. As it has become outdated, I’ve decided to rewrite and keep updating this post with the latest and greatest design sketching resources!
V1: 23 July 2007
V2: 1 March 2011
V3: 7 October 2011
Sharon Goh graduated in 2002 from TU Delft with a Masters Degree in Strategic Product Design. She is currently in charge of the sales and marketing of Dutch designed products in the Asia Pacific. She has worked in Japan, Netherlands and Singapore, in the competences of industrial design, design management and product marketing.
Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.