Why Sketching Is An Important Part of the Design Process

Sketched Design Mockup of a Storefront

As web designers go digital with their conceptualization process, they’re losing some of the magic in hand-drawn sketches.

A classically trained designer’s workflow incorporates sketching and drawing. With a background in design, I tend to sketch out ideas and prototypes with a pen and paper. For me, it’s an integral part of the design and ideation process.

As I’ve transitioned from designing physical objects into developing digital spaces, the necessity of hand-sketching has decreased. Applications like Adobe’s Photoshop & Illustrator software, have become the dominate tools for creating draft documents. Uncommon just a few years ago, digital-only prototyping of websites and other digital media has become a standard practice. Students and professionals alike are jumping straight onto a computer to iterate their ideas.

But something is being lost in the process. There is something magical about the ability to sketch. Even more magical is what it allows us to create. Sketching, with an actual pen and paper, is a part to the design process that simply can only be mimicked with digital tools—not outright replaced.

Sketching is a fluid method to express ideas. It is an exercise that requires your mind to be loose and encourages you to see problem and tasks from different angles. The more iterations of a drawing you do, the more your mind connects the dots to find hidden design opportunities. Whereas a computer program locks you into using a predetermined and frequently rigid toolset, the possibilities of what the mind and hand can create are endless. Sketches show imagination, and more importantly, possibility.

Drawings are also important in that they allow us to communicate our thoughts in a lo-fidelity, non- concrete manner. They allow us to capture the essence and spirit of our initial concepts for a client, rather than locking into an execution of the Sketches facilitate conversation and creative input from clients, encouraging them to add their vision to the project.

A recent editorial by Mark Evnet at VCU Brand Center hits the nail on the head:

Sketches…are loose, rough, and open to interpretation. They’re McLuhan-esque cool, requiring participation and involvement. There are blanks that the viewer needs to fill. The best execution is often the one that people have in their mind’s eye -- and if you don’t give them room to imagine, they’re stuck with your vision instead. They can’t make it their own, and it’s harder for them to feel engaged. In fact, just think of how this carries over into consumer generated content -- people feel engaged because they actually are engaged in the creation of something, not just nodding their heads or finding fault.

Sketching is not only important for designers, strategists, AM’s, and BD’s, but for clients as well.

To clients, I say this: it is important for your team to put value into the Discovery and Website Planning processes before jumping straight into design. Yes, it requires allocating more project time to development, but on the flip side, it is an investment in doing something different and unique.

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Categories: Design & Dev

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