“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

The importance of “roughness” in sketching

When thinking about sketching, there are several pieces that make a sketch a sketch, but to really make it a useful tool the quality of appropriate fidelity is one of the most important. In Bill Buxton’s “Sketching User Experience” (2007) he talks about the various qualities of an artifact that allow it to be a sketch. He talks about it being quick and he also talks about the importance of it being in multiples. Another quality he addresses is fidelity. He said in his Interaction08 | Savannah keynote that there is no such thing as high-fidelity or low-fidelity prototyping, but rather appropriate fidelity prototyping.

Another part of the puzzle when speaking about sketching that we all need to consider is what is a sketch vs. what is a prototype. Buxton goes to great lengths to work through this. He expresses it as a continuum moving from idea generation to idea validation. The closer to idea generation as its purpose the more it needs to be a sketch. The more it is for validation (i.e. usability testing) the more it needs to be a prototype and its “appropriate” level of fidelity needs to follow suit in order to get the desired results from the created artifacts. So when presenting a collection of sketches, or even going through the action of sketching itself, it is primarily if not entirely for the purpose of idea generation.

So why is roughness important. I mean with today’s tools like Flash, Fireworks, OmniGraffle, etc. I can create some really compelling high fidelity prototypical solutions really quickly, right? but here is the issue–completeness. For a sketch to be a tool of creation as opposed to validation, it must be able to illicit ideas with criticism and correction (and approval). Artefacts that give the appearance of completion tell a story. For sketching to be used as a design tool, it must have artifacts that ask questions.

So why not make stencils or create tools that make things look rough? Well one company thought of just that. Balsamiq created a tool in Flash called Mockups. It is basically Omnigraffle or Visio, but with a stencil of rough objects. But to me tools like this ignore some important issues of sketching because “Roughness” is only a piece of the equation.

But let’s get back to what roughness gives a sketch. It suggests incompleteness. It begs for moving forward, for completion, for change, for association. And the act of creativity requires tools that allow for moments of free association. So the tools and processes it uses need to work within that framework.

If you are intrigued by this and want more, well there is still 24 hours to get the early bird registration for my “Sketching for Interaction Design” workshop organized by SmartExperience.org.

Use discount code, “Synapse”, to get even more discount.

You can also take my other workshop separately or with “Sketching…,” called “Interaction Design for RIAs”. Ya get a discount if you take both.

For group rate information contact me or SmartExperience.org.

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