Sunday, October 25, 2009

Design and Sketching

Anyone doing design knows the importance of sketching. Sketching is in design the tool for thinking. Most designers sketch all the time in different ways and forms. In a short blog post, Spencer Nugent describes the levels of sketching. The levels are related to different purposes and lead to different forms of sketches. This post is an example of what I believe needs to be done much more in design which is to develop a language that makes it possible to talk about what designers do and how they do it and how they use their tools. It is so easy to talk about sketching as one activity which in design is far from what it is. Sketching is a concept that covers a huge amount of activities. Sketching is, in this case, on paper and by pen, but today we also have sketching-in-hardware and other forms of sketching. Bill Buxton, Bill Verplank and others have argued strongly for the place of sketching in design, and theoreticians like Donald Schön and other have argued convincingly that sketching is truly a form of thinking and not a result of thinking. In design there is still a need for more detailed accounts on the nature of sketching, the activities of sketching, the forms and types, the outcomes, etc.

As an educator in a graduate interaction design program I know that many of our students are almost scared of sketching, especially those who have not any sketching training in their earlier education. These students are in many cases blinded and paralyzed by the wonderful finished sketches they have seen from professional visual designers (like the level 4 and 5 sketches in the blog post mentioned above). I think that a language around sketching and its purpose and "levels" would help students to be more courageous and experiment more and they start to practice their own sketching ability at level 1 or maybe even level 0 without being afraid of not being able of doing a level 5 sketch.

1 comment:

Olle Hilborn said...

I agree completely that sketching is the tool for thinking. It both fills the communicative role and is used to make things more specific.
Good link to the levels of sketching. I think that sketching doesn't stop at pen and paper or with sketching software but it also extends into interaction sketching. Using a crude prototype which is easy to change and with that sketch the form of interaction in context is something I would like to see more of.

Being a student I agree that it's very hard to start sketching. But once you start it's very easy to continue and you actually want to increase the level of your sketch the more you work with it.

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