I’m Not Sketching!
One unique objective at Brainpark is that we design software on paper as much as possible before a new feature reaches the screen of a developer. The book Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, was a catalyst for our approach. He writes about the many attributes that sketching possesses including speed, timeliness and ambiguity that account for its relevancy to the design process.
Recently, I’ve felt that some of the user experiences I’ve designed could be richer. I’ve wondered if the quick pace of our 10-day development cycles was the cause or maybe I just need to go on a ‘creativity awakening’ field trip to the zoo. Then it hit me when I was showing my daughter how to draw the shadow cast by a yo-yo – I wasn’t sketching anymore at work!
I’ve been designing in Photoshop where it’s so easy to get distracted by the precision and finished look of a user interface at the expense of focusing on the user experience. This rookie design mistake is dealt with by designer Bruce Mau in his Incomplete Manifesto, a collection of design process rules, when he says:
Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.
Sketching is an integral part of the design process and each designer utilizes the skill in their own unique way to arrive at design solutions. If you take sketching out of the process, you’ve taken some of the designer out of the process and ideas can be lost, missed or never reached at all. For me, designing without sketching is like playing a guitar that’s missing one of it’s six strings. The end product isn’t always as great as it could be.
The lesson here is simple. When designing, especially in the conceptual development phase, don’t get trapped by the precision and refinement that design software affords. Let your creativity flow accompanied and aided by sketching. Leave the software for later in the design process.
I’ve learned my lesson. Tomorrow, I’m closing the laptop, rolling out the paper and doing my design thinking with a pencil in hand, not a computer mouse. Oh, and this weekend, I’m going to take the kids to the zoo, just in case.