Sketching is Offically Back, Finally

I have always been saying here on Design Sojourn that sketching is an important design and communication skill to have, I would say even more than any CAD skill of sorts. Importantly, in the last few years, I’ve seen more and more design companies make it a prerequisite in their new hires to have some kind of sketch communication skill.
So it is nice to finally see some coverage both on Adaptive Path, Sketching is the new black : inspirations from the analog world (a great collection of sketching links or analogue visualization methods), and Logic+Emotion: Sketching Is A State of Mind. Somewhere else rather than here!
In our time of huge computing advancement, there is a big temptation to get on the computer (2D/3D) to quickly “visualise” our designs. Often too quickly and before we have really “worked” through our designs.
What struck me on Logic + Emotion, was the following:

Sketching and drawing are not the same thing.
Allow me to elaborate on this personal opinion. For me personally, drawing on paper actually has some downsides. I find that when I draw, I’m tempted to render things. Rendering (making things look nice) gets in the way of my thinking process and as much as I try to ignore how things look, I find that the physical drawing part limits me. Sometimes I actually enjoy the drawing part so much, that my brain slips into “doodle” mode which is very relaxing but a essentially puts me into a semi-trance, as opposed problem solving mode. Again, this is a personal opinion but I have found that the act of “sketching” actually has nothing to do with drawing whether it be paper, or white board.

David pretty much sums up what I keep on saying here, sketching is about communication, not a beauty contest. Check out some of my popular past articles on sketching and do enjoy!
1) Concept Design Equipment
2) Do I have to be able to Draw Well to be a Good Designer?
3) Tips on How to Improve your Drawing Ability
4) Good Books on Design Sketching
5) How to move from Drawing to Designing?
6) Sketch Techniques with Michael DiTullo

  • DT

    October 7, 2008 at 10:28 pm Reply

    Hi All,
    Sorry for the late reply. These days I have so little time, its either blogging or commenting not both!
    @Raghuraj: I dont have any references, but personally I liken sketching to what most designers do, getting the ideas down on paper. I see drawing as what artist do, where they reproduce what they see on paper. I may be wrong.
    @Jim: Thanks for the blurbs. I usually don’t go into such detail and try to keep things simple. That’s what makes David’s description easy to understand.
    @waikit: Thanks for the link!
    @csven: Hey thanks for stopping by. I saw your discussion on his post. I intentionally only culled or edited the initial part of the quote, partly cos I did not quite understood the scope of the discussion and also did not want to go there!
    @asango: That is a classic comment! Thanks for stopping by and leaving it.
    @Billy: Hey thanks for your comment. Check out some of my sketches here:

  • Billy

    October 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm Reply

    care to show us some of your sketches? hope to learn more from you

  • JIm Rait

    September 29, 2008 at 3:48 am Reply

    Jonathan Ive’s thoughts about sketching here…

  • JIm Rait

    September 20, 2008 at 9:16 pm Reply

    Agree with asango! It’s the act not just the otput that counts!

  • asango

    September 20, 2008 at 1:23 am Reply

    Only people who talk about doing stuff, instead of actually doing stuff, ever thought sketching was ‘dead’. Its the most important tool in anyone’s box, whether for problem solving or communicating. period.
    and no sketching doesn’t have to pretty.

  • csven

    September 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm Reply

    Massive functional disconnect. Too early in the morning; especially with the massive headache I have. Apologies for the confusion. I lost my train of thought when comparing the times to see if I’d commented prior to this post.
    What I meant to say was that after reading the quote you culled and comment you made, I was surprised you didn’t get *deeper* into Armano’s entry; including comments where I essentially disagree with the idea of “sketching is about communication” (made prior to this entry of yours).

  • csven

    September 19, 2008 at 9:40 pm Reply

    Surprised you haven’t mentioned Armano’s blog entry: “Sketching Is A State of Mind” ( ). He tries to do what Adaptive Path doesn’t, but I think he’s mistaken; discussed in comments. However, the timing was serendipitous since I’ve been ramping up the online ID studio sessions and the first topic (for the volunteers) is on this very topic.

  • JIm Rait

    September 19, 2008 at 5:06 pm Reply

    Great article Waikit! Reminded me of two things… we used to talk to consumers with digitally created “photos” projected on the wall and handed round as prints. We heard comments and sketched electronically directly on the pix (projected on wall). We then got instant feedback of our interpretation of their comments “No, I meant the other way.” etc.
    Also we taught sketching to everyone willing to spend a day learning.
    This enabled non-designers to think and communicate more tangibly. Even simple doodles change the conversation!

  • Waikit

    September 19, 2008 at 12:30 pm Reply

    There is an interesting article about the role of sketching in the design process:
    It is indeed an important skill for every designer.

  • JIm Rait

    September 18, 2008 at 10:40 pm Reply

    Bill Buxton in his book “Sketching User Experiences” discusses the use of sketching to make ideas tangible so they can be discussed and critiqued; also he touches on how the cat of sketching itself enables the sketcher’s brain to make connections. I suspect sketching is more for understanding the problem and outlining possibilities to solve it. When the interaction leads to a favoured route to a solution drawing enables the designer to start exploring constraints and finding specific ways to meet them. Some students at Umea Institute of Design created the book they wished had been available to them whilst they studied: “Design Sketching” by Erik Olofsson et al. The foreword talks of “Sketching – the designers’ visual language.. and class sketching as
    Both Books are great to explore and understand the utility of sketching.

  • Raghuraj Ananthoj

    September 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm Reply

    Hi DT,
    thanks for listing the prior articles published.
    I would rightly agree to David, that both are not the same. The evry definition of two words has some meaning in them. To sketch is to just make a gist of idea, or outline of idea or product etc., draw is more to do with composition and render.
    may be we can refine it more, let continue discussion on this until we reach a very good conclusion or accurate definition on what “DRAWING ” and “SKETCHING” mean in design. Any takers?

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