“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Sketching … It isn’t just a drawing that takes less time

I’m teaching an interaction design class for SmartExperience.org right now, and I’m in the midst of my sketching lessons. Dealing with a smart group of UX professionals, here is what I’m figuring out about sketching. …

The lesson asked students to do 10 sketches about their project. Personally I felt this was a low number, but it turned out it was way too high for all of them. No fault to them though. Rather it is the fault of all their teachers and managers before they got to me. No one every taught them the importance of sketching multiplicities is toward generating ideas.

What did I get from the students? Most students actually gave me a quick drawing of a single idea. Some did 10 sketches, but just went deeper on a single idea, as opposed to generating completely new ideas.

As someone who grew up outside the design world, I totally understand where my current students are at, though there are a few who are design educated who still surprise me how they didn’t use sketching as an idea generation tool. It is only recently for me with my classes 3 years ago at Pratt in Industrial Design and now my work inside of an industrial design studio that I’m even beginning to incorporate sketching as a tool.

But, it is still sad that so many UX professionals still do not understand that a sketch is not the drawing/visual equivalent of an elevator pitch. That the “napkin drawing” is not really the practice of “sketching” from the point of view of designing. May 100 napkin sketches would suffice.

I’d like to offer some semantic clarification and maybe it will help us to move forward if we change terms a bit within our own corridors. Doing a quick drawing to communicate to people an idea should not be referred to as a sketch any longer. It is a hand-drawing. A sketch or the practice of sketching for designers should always have multiples, should be for personal or team ideation, and should be very rapid and rough, to the point of being trash before the pencil even leaves the paper.

Since discovering sketching as a tool. I try to do a lot more of it. The level of discovery through personal or group sketching has increased the alternate possibilities and have led to innovations so much more often than a linear singularity can do.

Everyone reading this, please sketch 5 completely new ways of laying out my blog. Be as wild as you want and email me your results. ;-)


— dave

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