Toolbox: Levels of Sketching

I’ve met alot of designers in my limited experience that complain about the “sketchers”. Sometimes designers with an aptitude for sketching get labeled as being shallow or non-creative. However, I see sketching as a means to and ends rather than the end all. When all is said and done, regardless of how flashy the sketch may be or how killer it may look, the essence of why we sketch ideas as designers is seeded in effectively communicating those ideas to our clients. Sketching is our language of communication.

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Sometimes we sketch for fun, but most of the time when working, we sketch for clients or other designers. The sketches that go into your sketchbook are of a different quality than those you would show to your fellow designers in a review or to a client in a meeting, but both sketches have their uses nonetheless. Take this for example, you’re in a restaurant on a lunch break and something comes to mind. You quickly jot it down on a scraggly napkin so that you don’t forget the idea. That sketch too has its purpose. Although it could be the killer idea of a lifetime, the communication may be lacking from you to the client and may be more of a self communication tool.

So then what are the different types of sketches you ask? Well fortunately you are in the right place, at the right time, reading the right blog.

1. Personal Communication Sketches aka the Doodle:

These are the scraggliest of the scraggers. The dirtiest of the dirty. They sketches that tend to live in the sketchbook or on discarded pieces of paper. The purpose of doodling and sketching so roughly is for you the designer to work out the issues with form or function, but in a looser more empathic way. These sketches tend to be most present at the genesis of the product concept. For me, these are the doodles I do when preoccupied in thought on the bus or train as I try to fiddle around with new ideas or sketch techniques.

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2. The Thinking Sketch:

Al little more focused and refined, these sketches are usually alot cleaner than the scraggly doodles you find in a sketchbook. You may find yourself showing these to other designers, so you can make certain assumptions as you sketch and use cues that your colleagues would pick up on suck as hatching and contour lines. Simple gestural sketches could also fall into this category. . .

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3. The Technical Sketch

Designers bridge the gap between art and engineering. (you can decide for yourself what your role or mantra is) As such, sometimes it’s necessary when sitting and working with an engineer or clay modeler to then speak on their terms. That means pulling out the ol’ exploded views, cutaway views, and cross sections to help communicate your vision for the product your designing.

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4. The Presentation Sketch:

This is where you bring out the big guns. These sketches tend to be a little more refined and thought out. you can think of them as being a little technical yet a little emotive. They serve to captivate the viewers interest while then explaining the concept visually. For a client that does not have the visual thinking skills of you fellow designers, it may be necessary to be a bit more explicit in how you explain things in your sketches (hence the technical aspect). Notes, callouts, different views – this is where you’ll want to be overt in how you express the idea.

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5. The Emotive Sketch:

The gushy, over the top, killer sketch whose soul purpose is to make your viewer stare in awe at the killer sketch/render in front of them. Yes this is what tends to be the automotive sketch. Descriptive yet very emotional. I rarely do these much as I tend to work in 3-d once I get past the presentation sketch phase, but don’t get me wrong, I totally dig these and love a good emotionally and visually captivating sketch.

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Well there you have it. My 2¢ on some different levels of sketching while designing. I’ll admit, it’s not a perfect assessment , so if you have any suggestions or other examples, lemme know, or discuss it in the IDSKETCHING.COM forums, and we’ll append it to the article.

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