In a recent survey by Khoi Vinh of subtraction.com about their favourite tools that designers use in the design process, “Pencil and Paper” came up as the overwhelming winner (64% of all answers) for the “Brainstorming and Ideation” phase. In a time where new tools and techniques for designers and developers emerge all the time, it might surprising that the good old analogue technique of sketching by hand is that popular. But is it really?
Sketching is a simple but powerful tool, that we all have at our disposal. Pens, paper and whiteboards are readily available in every office, there is no need for expensive hard- or software It’s quick, it’s cheap and we don’t have to be artists to scribble down a simple diagram explaining our ideas. There seems to be a potential barrier for a lot of people though to take the first steps at picking up a pen –especially coming from a non-design background like programming, research or product management. The sentence “I can’t draw” can be anchored deeply in our heads, convincing us that if we never had a knack for arts, sketching can’t be for us.
In this workshop, we are going to dispel the ‘I can’t draw’ myth and dive right into practicing the simple techniques you need to sketch ideas for your web pages, mobile apps, user flows or site maps. We will start with a simple warm-up and slowly work our way through a set of exercises that focus on different aspects of sketching, both technically and conceptually.
Each exercise is designed to tackle a specific area like page layouts, navigation structures, user flows, interactions and animations. And as a bonus we will go beyond just boxes and arrows with a little excursion into sketching simple storyboards that bring our products to life in the context of actual people using what we want to build. After each exercise a group review allows us to see each others’ solutions, talk about difficulties and how we can overcome them and learn from everybody in the room in a friendly and supportive environment.
We’ll discuss questions like “How do I communicate structure clearly?”, “How do I make it easier for others to grasp the high level concept?”, “How do I emphasise important parts of my idea?”, “Which level of fidelity is the right one?“ or “How can I use colour effectively?” both through our reviews as well as some theoretical support and examples from real world projects.
After an intense morning of practicing single skills in smaller exercises, we will bring everything together by exploring how you can use sketching activities in a workshop setting with your team. By the end of the day you will be equipped with the skills and confidence to express your ideas visually and a structure for when and how to use sketching on your own or in a workshop with your team.
The workshop is ideal for anyone involved with building digital products and who wants to add sketching into their toolkit. You don’t need to have any previous sketching experience. If you already sketch, but you want a day of focussed practice and some tips and tricks of how to improve your technique, even better. We will have a fun, fast-paced day, taking a break from the screen to let the ideas flow straight from the tip of our pen. See you there!
Photos by Christian Perstl from a previous workshop in Munich