Good Books on Design Sketching (Updated October 2011)
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.
The Design Sketching website provides sneak previews of the some of the chapters in this book. Their 2D rendering skills are so amazing that you will be tempted to order it!
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 Michael 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 by sketching 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 competencies of industrial design, design management and product marketing.
sketchingNovember 26, 2020 at 1:04 pm
this very very good site
PAUL BELLINGHAMApril 12, 2013 at 10:46 pm
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST MARKER RENDERING TECHNIQUE BOOKS FOR VEHICLE DESIGN?
katMarch 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm
i am looking at going into industrial design for university but im unsure does anyone know if you have to design super complicated stuff and if you have to be super talented or if your good i got a high mark in on of my design courses but am having trouble with original desins should i still go into design?? or do other people have trouble too
Brian (Design Sojourn)April 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm
@Kat: Thanks for your question. It takes all of the above actually. But I’m curious how can you have a high mark in a design course but have trouble in original design? Regardless, I like to wish you the best of luck in your design career.
Subash BanavatiNovember 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm
Scott Robertson’s DVD is really wonderful for beginners as well as for designers who are looking for more inputs . I need to get hold of the other books too . They look really helpful as well .
Brian (Design Sojourn)October 6, 2011 at 1:31 am
Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave your comments.
@Nathan: Fully agree, I literally have to drag students or designers away from their computers! I hope this compilation can inspire.
@Joyce: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll check it out.
JoyceSeptember 29, 2011 at 2:08 am
I have a few of those books, which I agree are great, particularly the book by Koos Eissen and Roselien Steur. They have published a new book which is kind of the prequel to the one you mentioned, called “Sketching: The Basics” which is really great for design students like me!
marciaAugust 3, 2011 at 12:14 am
fendyJune 8, 2011 at 11:52 am
really interesting. nice artwork. good job.
Nathan YerianApril 6, 2011 at 2:37 am
Sketching seems to be a less common practice. Too many young designers are giving it up and going straight to the computer. Sketching out ideas/concepts can save time, and in my opinion, help to hone design skills. Thanks for this compilation.
chaitanyaMarch 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm
🙂 my pleasure.
BrianMarch 7, 2011 at 10:30 am
@chaitanya: Thanks for stopping by and for encouraging readers to share this article.
chaitanyaMarch 4, 2011 at 12:33 am
Well, I’ll also give this a big “wow.!!!!!!!!” 🙂
This is really a very helpful DesignLink.
I’m a Communication Design Student from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU,Vadodara, India. Apart from my design discipline I’m also acutely interested in Industrial design, so keep on doing some ID stuff. The DesignBooks: Design Sketching by Erik Olofsson and Klara Sjolen,Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers by Koos Eissen and Roselien Steur and Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell, I am presently going through and have found these really.!!!! very helpful..Believe me, being from a different Design Discipline, these books have given me a very clear idea about the Design Process: right from the initial ideation sketches to the final, Traditional and Digital renderings.
Well, I would like to conclude by just laying a small request: who ever views this design section, kindly ‘share’ this via twitter, facebook..whatever… This might be of great help.
HildaSeptember 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm
Thanks alot for the references. I was looking for them for a pretty long time. I’m getting ready for the enterance exam of Industrial Design at university (Sketch exam).
lo datsunFebruary 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm
hai im from malaysia.im a new student and im studying industrial design with engineering university,(last diploma im in tool & die course)so a lot work i need to practice.hopefully this will encourage me to do well
HamdyApril 30, 2008 at 3:50 am
wow. i wish i can do somthing like this
pyJuly 31, 2007 at 10:44 am
I’m glad you liked it. Scott Robertson’s DVDs are good too, giving in-depth skills about sketching. You can consider getting them. I saw it last time, and it was really cool.
I’m glad you like him, too.
drew koraJuly 23, 2007 at 9:47 pm
Wow. I needed that link to Scott Robertson’s web page. Beautiful work…I love looking at concept sketches. It makes me immediately want to take out my sketchbook and start drawing.