Stop Designing and Start Drawing

Posted 6 months ago by Shabana Ahmed

There’s a lot of pressure on designers to be excellent right from the start. But that’s just not realistic.

When you start a project, you don’t know what the right solution is yet.

The power of early sketching and realisation of any problem’s complexities is best explored and understood in the very freedom of mapping out everything in the early days of approaching a problem. Because the truth is, you do not know the answer yet. This process is a powerful and emotional part of designing for real solutions in a minimal, non-consuming, non-committal way. So no idea is a bad idea— everything is up for consideration.

“No idea is a bad idea— everything is up for consideration.”

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Why is it some some designers don’t sketch like this anymore?

Sometimes teams are used to/expecting to see more finessed visuals when starting out, but that’s a cultural setting. It’s up to the designer to share early sketches without the worry of “it doesn’t look beautiful yet”.

The most important thing is that you can talk about what you’ve put together. What does it mean, how can it help, and how can you and your team evolve it?

Beautiful visuals are necessary only after you’ve solved the problem. Only then do you have the best view from all angles on what delivery looks like. Sometimes this needs a few iterations and blank pieces of paper to figure it all out.

Some designers get embarrassed by not possessing the skills of an illustrator. In the bigger picture this never actually matters in the end.
Any ability to visualise early and often is a much-valued skill.

“Beautiful visuals are necessary only after you’ve solved the problem.”

A good fact is … many designers do not illustrate … but still draw in their day to day to make sense of puzzles and create good products.

How to integrate early sketches back into your work? Don’t over think it, just do it!

Keep a supply of paper handy and plenty of pens, fine liners, fluid rollers at 0.3–0.5 make excellent widths to get going with quick fluid lines or any pencil, for that matter. Tweetables

‘Dark, clean strokes are better for contrast and leave yourself room to evolve the sketch when you share it with others.’

“Any ability to visualise early and often is a much-valued skill.”

In my design team at Alfresco, we have some who draw in pencil. I see them rubbing out old ideas and updating visuals after conversations, ideas and to move with the project changes. They carry the same pieces of paper around with them and the sketches evolve until decision feel good and next steps take off.

Sometimes our meeting room whiteboards are filled with marker outlines of apps and platforms, these stay up and others might come along and help evolve with more sketching and notes.

I personally carry a thick sketch pad and every task goes in there. I love using fine liners and creating journeys for my customers among flows and UI designs, I take photos of my sketches on my Nexus and share them with my team quickly on Skype for feedback. It’s a great way for me to showcase my mind before committing to anything that looks like it’s signed off.

Sketches help to loosen the situation, it helps my team to think freely— after all, they’re just sketches.

“It’s good to leave your desk once in awhile and sketch out a problem that might be giving you a hard time.”

Other times, I’ll carry that pad with me and sit with engineers and managers to get a better grasp of the problem and sketch whilst we talk about the problem and then what the solution may possibly need.

It’s good to leave your desk once in awhile and sketch out a problem that might be giving you a hard time. I do this in our kitchen, there’s plenty of room and no email notifications to distract, there’s nothing but— endless possibilities.

There is freedom in the stroke of a pen, let your best ideas out early and often.

“There is freedom in the stroke of a pen, let your best ideas out early and often.”

This article was originally published on Shabana’s Medium page.

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I design experiences and interfaces for a living. Say hi on Twitter. Find out more on my blog.

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