Sketching: Every UX Designer Is Doing It (and so should you!)

Meg Davis  

February 08, 2012

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You’d think with powerful digital wireframing and diagramming tools like Visio, Axure, and Omnigraffle available to me, that I’d spend most of my time on the computer clicking away. However, one of my most valued tools as a user experience designer is simply pen & paper sketching.

Why should you sketch?

  • Sketching stimulates and activates the visual areas of your brain
  • Sketching allows for easy abstraction of ideas so that you can focus on big concepts
  • The rough format of sketches allows others to critique the big ideas you are communicating, not the way in which they are communicated
  • Sketching lets you move fast through several iterations (and it’s cheap!)
  • Sketching enables you to convey movement and interaction, as well as show interactions in context of an environment
  • Sketching doesn’t limit you to the components in any digital stencil library

When should you sketch?

  • When you’re stuck and you need to work out an idea for yourself
  • When you’re introducing a complex idea and want people to focus on the idea, not the form
  • When you need to build consensus within a group and can use a sketch to build off everyone’s ideas
  • When you need to show the context of use around an interface or product
  • When you’re dealing with an interaction or system that is novel and non-standard

What do you need to get started?

  • Mead Wirebound Academie Sketchbook (or any paper you can get your hands on)
  • Sharpie Extra Fine Point Permanent Marker
  • Most importantly, NO FEAR!

How do you get started? Here’s a list of a few techniques and approaches to inspire you:

  • Sketch flows through screens in an interface:

  • Use sketches to continually refine and iterate on one idea. Set a timer to give yourself 5 minutes to sketch in 6 boxes as fast as you can:

  • Sketch scenarios of how a user will use the interface, with the focus on the context of use:

  • Use sketches to test out complex interactions that are hard to prototype; instead use paper prototypes with sections of the interface cut out: