Increase Collaboration Through Sketching

by Giff on February 29, 2012


“treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone…” Paul Cezanne, 1904

Effective Agile UX turns product design into a collaborative, cross-functional process. A great way to do this is to pull non-designers into a fast-paced, fun sketching workshop (I’ll post more notes from the Agile UX conference on this soon).

One of the first things you need to do is neutralize insecurity over drawing skills, or what defines a “good sketch”. A good sketch doesn’t have to be beautiful, it only needs to embody an interesting idea and be able to communicate that idea.

In Jeff Gothelf’s “Demystifying Design” talk, he stated that if you can draw a triangle, square, or circle, you can draw just about any user interface.

One way to neutralize insecurity by pointing out the above: simple shapes are all you need, and they don’t even have to be well-drawn shapes.

Another important tactic is to severely timebox to how much time people have to work on each sketch. In Todd Zaki Warfel’s “design studio” sessions, he has people try for 8 sketches in 5 minutes.

This conversation gave me a flashback to days in the art studio. A common kickoff exercise for a figure drawing class is to do “gesture drawings” where you draw while only looking at the subject (no looking at your paper!). You start at 30 seconds per drawing, and then go to 1 minute then 2 minutes. This exercise both improves hand-eye coordination and “seeing skills”, but also breaks down insecurity and tightness that inhibits the artist.

p.s. if you are a really good artists and you are leading a sketching workshop, you might want to purposefully “rough up” your own sketches to reduce insecurity of the people around you. You want everyone focused on ideas and communication, and not beauty.

p.p.s. great painters throughout the ages have known that a great way to learn to paint is to start with “simple solids: that is, spheres, cubes, cylinders, pyramids, and cones.” (John Sloan). Keep it simple :)

Photo taken by Lukas Fittl