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Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby yo » November 30th, 2017, 9:38 am

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Mrog wrote: I don't get paid to practice


How much do you get paid to be out of practice? All experts practice their skills. Athletes train, musicians and actors rehearse. Investing in a little practice time always pays dividends. Of course you can have the intern do it... and I’ll outsource renders and final presentation materials as needed, but the thinking sketches, the ones where I’m working out the idea, those are important. Everyone’s workflow is different of course, I tend to think on the page.

Nothing wrong with developing techniques to improve your sketching... those take practice as well.

Frequency impoves efficacy.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby Dan Lewis » November 30th, 2017, 11:23 am

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yo wrote:
Mrog wrote: I don't get paid to practice


How much do you get paid to be out of practice? All experts practice their skills. Athletes train, musicians and actors rehearse. Investing in a little practice time always pays dividends. Of course you can have the intern do it... and I’ll outsource renders and final presentation materials as needed, but the thinking sketches, the ones where I’m working out the idea, those are important. Everyone’s workflow is different of course, I tend to think on the page.

Nothing wrong with developing techniques to improve your sketching... those take practice as well.

Frequency impoves efficacy.


I get paid to think not sketch -- sketching one way or another, faster, slower, good, bad, doesn't make me think faster or better or make me more efficient as a designer.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby Mrog » November 30th, 2017, 12:59 pm


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yo wrote:
Mrog wrote: I don't get paid to practice


How much do you get paid to be out of practice? All experts practice their skills. Athletes train, musicians and actors rehearse. Investing in a little practice time always pays dividends. Of course you can have the intern do it... and I’ll outsource renders and final presentation materials as needed, but the thinking sketches, the ones where I’m working out the idea, those are important. Everyone’s workflow is different of course, I tend to think on the page.

Nothing wrong with developing techniques to improve your sketching... those take practice as well.

Frequency impoves efficacy.


I agree with Dan Lewis.
"All experts practice their skills". I do, I am a designer, I train designing stuff every single day (well, monday to friday). That is my skill. My employer pays me to tell our enginneers what I want and how I want it. I do a LOT of this with sketches. But my boss doesn't give a shit if I sketch my designs or dance them. The sketches I do are mostly rough dooodles, usually no perspective, no details, nothing and most of them are done within a few seconds. I don't think you need to have good technical sketching skills at all to "think on the page". Even most of our engineers do it without any formal drawing training. Those thinking doodles are nothing you will ever show to a client. Usually we show them prototypes. If we need fancy marker renderings the intern will do it. But honestly? I don't think most clients give a shit either if you give them pretty sketches or not. I don't remember a time a client actually got really excited about a sketch. A physical prototype makes them always around a thousand times more happy, guaranteed. How often do you practice your skills at design model building? When was the last time you were sanding foam to get the shape juuuuuust right? Isn't that an essential design skill as well?

junglebrodda wrote:astute observation! drawing/sketching and design are separate skills albeit ones that seem complementary or parallel but not really; one could be good at one and not the other...kinda like a rapper's ability to spontaneously freestyle vs. actually make a song; impressive to see but kinda unrelated really to the business of making the end product...

sketching does help with the communication/visualization but i guess everyone's process is different


Yeah, many people seem to think "good sketch" = "good design". Churning out cars and sneakers on a daily basis that all kinda look the same (which is what 90% of instagram famous designers do) - that's not design, that's a partytrick. Where are the ideas? Where is the innovation? Being a designer means having a specific mindset, not having perfect lineweight.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby MK19 » November 30th, 2017, 3:22 pm


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Mrog wrote:Churning out cars and sneakers on a daily basis that all kinda look the same (which is what 90% of instagram famous designers do) - that's not design, that's a partytrick. Where are the ideas? Where is the innovation? Being a designer means having a specific mindset, not having perfect lineweight.

Quote of the century. A sketch or CAD model or foam model in and of itself is worthless. Only ideas which are realised have any value, which is the entire purpose of a Product Designer.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby yo » November 30th, 2017, 3:39 pm

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MK19 wrote:
Mrog wrote:Churning out cars and sneakers on a daily basis that all kinda look the same (which is what 90% of instagram famous designers do) - that's not design, that's a partytrick. Where are the ideas? Where is the innovation? Being a designer means having a specific mindset, not having perfect lineweight.

Quote of the century. A sketch or CAD model or foam model in and of itself is worthless. Only ideas which are realised have any value, which is the entire purpose of a Product Designer.


Literally the ask is how to get better at sketching guys (or using shortcuts to be exact)...

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby yo » November 30th, 2017, 3:54 pm

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Mrog wrote:
I agree with Dan Lewis.
"All experts practice their skills". I do, I am a designer, I train designing stuff every single day (well, monday to friday). That is my skill. My employer pays me to tell our enginneers what I want and how I want it. I do a LOT of this with sketches. But my boss doesn't give a shit if I sketch my designs or dance them. The sketches I do are mostly rough dooodles, usually no perspective, no details, nothing and most of them are done within a few seconds. I don't think you need to have good technical sketching skills at all to "think on the page". Even most of our engineers do it without any formal drawing training. Those thinking doodles are nothing you will ever show to a client. Usually we show them prototypes. If we need fancy marker renderings the intern will do it. But honestly? I don't think most clients give a shit either if you give them pretty sketches or not. I don't remember a time a client actually got really excited about a sketch. A physical prototype makes them always around a thousand times more happy, guaranteed. How often do you practice your skills at design model building? When was the last time you were sanding foam to get the shape juuuuuust right? Isn't that an essential design skill as well?


Dude, no reason to get so upset. I'm sorry your clients aren't impressed by your sketches. I haven't found that to be true in my case. I have a few clients that have some of my early process sketches framed on their walls, sometimes from a decade ago... this is not a bad thing.

And you are totally right, practicing making things is helpful, and I could do more of that. That is where I usually contract out work where as when I was younger I did a lot of that work myself. Now anything beyond a quick mockup to see if something might work or a print out of a tightly controlled curve to scale goes to one of my guys. To rationalize I suppose I have decide where to invest time.... but the ask here is about sketching specifically, and the answer is still the best way to be better is to practice.


Mrog wrote:
junglebrodda wrote:astute observation! drawing/sketching and design are separate skills albeit ones that seem complementary or parallel but not really; one could be good at one and not the other...kinda like a rapper's ability to spontaneously freestyle vs. actually make a song; impressive to see but kinda unrelated really to the business of making the end product...

sketching does help with the communication/visualization but i guess everyone's process is different


Yeah, many people seem to think "good sketch" = "good design". Churning out cars and sneakers on a daily basis that all kinda look the same (which is what 90% of instagram famous designers do) - that's not design, that's a partytrick. Where are the ideas? Where is the innovation? Being a designer means having a specific mindset, not having perfect lineweight.


No need to degrade someone else skill as a party trick. Obviously I'm not going to be giving away tons of thinking for free on instagram. Just showing 30 minute warm ups. I get paid to design a lot of sneakers and cars (among other things, been a recent uptick in medical due to the consumerization of health and wellness), so I save the thinking for the clients.

Of course a good sketch doesn't equal good design, but it doesn't hurt it either. A great idea not selected because it wasn't represented well is useless.

how's those shortcuts coming?

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby Dan Lewis » November 30th, 2017, 4:06 pm

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BlackEmrald wrote:Hi Designers,

Just wondering what your shortcuts/tried and true methods are when sketching? Is there a go to perspective view that you use? A trusty underlay that just wont go away? Do you use pre-prepared grids or any other type of resource? What type of guides do you use? Sitting down to a stack of white paper, where do you start? What do you do? What method do you use to get going?


I don't see any mention of getting better - just what shortcuts. Ok -- I use whatever is most expedient. No one but me is going to see the sketches that I use to work through the problem so underlays, grids, pencil, pen, I like to sketch on yellow tracing paper as I can use one sketch as an underlay for another as a method of iterating. I self-edit very quickly and discard quickly. I have never been married to a sketch or sketching -- it's just another tool in problem-solving.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby BlackEmrald » November 30th, 2017, 4:09 pm


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yo wrote:Literally the ask is how to get better at sketching guys (or using shortcuts to be exact)...


While it may have been interpreted in this way, To be clear this isn't the intent behind the question. I really want to know about shortcuts, or ("techniques", as Yo says). Things that improve the speed/efficiency of the process. To me, the word "Shortcut" shouldn't have a negative connotation, necessarily.

While I suppose the whole "Practice" argument is valid, I think that to most this should go beyond saying.

Designers are problem solvers at their root, right? Well what solutions have designers found that address their design process? While I'm sure we would all love a month to sketch on a subject, in the real world that doesn't happen. I wanted to harvest the collective knowledge here to see where the process can be improved.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby Mrog » November 30th, 2017, 5:27 pm


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I'm sorry your clients aren't impressed by your sketches. I haven't found that to be true in my case. I have a few clients that have some of my early process sketches framed on their walls, sometimes from a decade ago... this is not a bad thing.


The master of the humblebrag :mrgreen: Well, but here I think lies the difference between our points of view. You see a sketch as something that needs to "impress" someone. For me it is a useful tool I use everyday, but I don't feel very emotional about it. It seems for you to be very important to be seen as very masterful at that particular skill, I personally don't really care what people think about my sketches as long as they fulfill their purpose. I don't think it is a designer's job to impress with a purely technical skill.
I can go to artstation right now and hire someone to draw my product and it would blow everything out of the water anyone could do here on the forum, including yours, Michael. And there is no shame in that, because that person will be a professional, fulltime illustrator. This person would also probably charge me only a fraction of my current, hourly salary (and no, I don't have an exceptionally high salary). Because drawing in itself is not a particularly valuable skill. I am not saying you should give the client shitty sketches that don't "impress" him/her. I am simply suggesting that the client doesn't give a shit if it was me who did the visuals or my intern. Because I am not selling myself as a colorful character, I am selling the solutions I came up with.

That is where I usually contract out work where as when I was younger I did a lot of that work myself. Now anything beyond a quick mockup to see if something might work or a print out of a tightly controlled curve to scale goes to one of my guys. To rationalize I suppose I have decide where to invest time....


Which is literally the EXACT reasoning I had for sourcing out hot design sketching. I hope you see the irony.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby yo » November 30th, 2017, 5:36 pm

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BlackEmrald wrote:
yo wrote:Literally the ask is how to get better at sketching guys (or using shortcuts to be exact)...


While it may have been interpreted in this way, To be clear this isn't the intent behind the question. I really want to know about shortcuts, or ("techniques", as Yo says). Things that improve the speed/efficiency of the process. To me, the word "Shortcut" shouldn't have a negative connotation, necessarily.

While I suppose the whole "Practice" argument is valid, I think that to most this should go beyond saying.

Designers are problem solvers at their root, right? Well what solutions have designers found that address their design process? While I'm sure we would all love a month to sketch on a subject, in the real world that doesn't happen. I wanted to harvest the collective knowledge here to see where the process can be improved.


Fair point. A few good ones have been listed already, but to get us back on track, a few things that come to mind:

1 - as mentioned flipping the paper. I've been taking this another step by scanning my underlay, flipping it in photoshop, warping/liquifying as needed, printing back out and overlaying it

2 - reference. Surround yourself with lots of reference. I use pinterest a lot for this. Not so much sketching reference but lots of benchmarking contemporary details, executions, and CMF palettes.

3 - studying how other people do it. There are so many great youtube videos out there. I try to watch a few a week and try out what people are doing.

4 - changing mediums. The human brain is programmed for pattern seeking. This is really positive when driving to work (ever have that moment when you get to work and realize you don't remember the drive at all? That is your brain finding patterns and going on autopilot). Your brain being in a pattern is not good when ideating. I find if I always use the same medium I can get stuck. Sometime switching pen types, or to pencil, or paper size, or analog to digital just helps shake things up... likewise changing musical genres while sketching can help.

5 - pin up your work. It seems silly, but for some reason if you pin up your work and step back it just helps. When working on a project I pin everything up as I go. It helps me see what is warn and also helps me to see grouping and themes in ideas and shift the bulk of the work one way or another. I can more easily see if the bulk of the exploration is focusing too much in one area, or if the majority feel to conservative, or too far out there. At an early stage i'm trying to show a broad variety of ideas that are still mostly within the scope of the project (a few outside to keep people on their toes). Pinning up helps me to do that.

6 - goes without saying but underlays underlays underlays. I rarely show a sketch that hasn't been overplayed 3-4 times or more. The first underlay is usually just a perspective page layout. I might use that underlay across 10 concepts. The second and third underlay I'm exploring the idea, usually just functionally blocking things in and drawing through it, maybe roughing in some components. The last overlay I'm getting it all to work visually and making sure it reads easily without needing to say much. Sometimes those early underlays can be CAD based mechanicals, a photo, and old sketch, or a rough new sketch, whatever it takes.

7 -up front strategy work. This isn't so much about sketching as it is helping clients (or peers or higher ups) understand and agree to a set language and align on parameters. Before I sketch I'll often rough in a series of solution spaces both functionally and visually for the concepts to reside in and a few frameworks that will help rank and judge solutions. This also makes my sketching a lot more efficient. usually a few good ideas will fall outside those strategic areas and i'll have to go back and touch up the frameworks, but it helps me be more focused. And if several designers are sketching the project it helps divvy up the work by solution area.

8 - textures. A more minor one, but having a stock set of textures you know how to apply (leather, textile, perforations, glossy, woodgrain, brushed metal) helps you be that more efficient. You don't need to worry about it in the moment.

9 - humans. On the same note as textures, having some stock ways you typically show human interaction (hands, feet, figures sitting/standing and the like) really helps you not work about it in the moment.

10 - of course the way to work on all of these techniques is practice. I know a designer who does a 30 minute practice sketch everyday when he wakes up. I try to squeeze one in here and there. Sometimes just a doodle in my notebook. This year I've been diligent about doing one a day everyday. Honestly I didn't think I'd see that much of an improvement (a stupid and cocky POV). I feel like I have improved a lot, not only in my sketching but in my clarity of thought on the page. As my boss at frog used to say "You do your best thinking with your hands" something about working through an idea, whether that is on the page or in the metal shop, that advances it.

11 - sketch with others. Sketching with others can really help. There is an exponential momentum to 3 or 4 people sketching together, doing overlays for each other, adding to each others ideas. It can be really powerful and fun.

12 - go back and forth. Sketching isn't a phase, it is a way of thinking and communicating. Research a little, sketch a little,e build a little CAD, sketch a little more, make a physical mockup, sketch a bit. Every point in the process is an opportunity to improve the design, and you might do that with a little sketching.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby FH13 » November 30th, 2017, 6:38 pm

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Well, this thread went south fast.

If it is a complex product with multiple "different" areas then sketch each area separately so you don't get overwhelmed.
Sketch in a room without internet or phones....so you don't get distracted.
Maybe separate your sessions into blue sky, middle of road and realistic.
Set deadlines time/budgets. If not, you'll be stuck in an endless sketching loop. We all wish we had more time but in reality we have a set amount of time. Maybe set mini goals like do 3 solid concepts one day, focus on manufacturability another day, then improve on them another day, etc.
Do some mood boards to get started. After a few days make new ones or revised ones based on what you found out through your sketching.

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby yo » November 30th, 2017, 7:32 pm

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yah, went a little old school c77 forums for a hot minute there.

This isn't a list of shortcuts, but more of a list of things to be thinking about. Given to me by one of my professors in school. I've used it when teaching from time to time.

PERSPECTIVE >> are you honestly constructing the design by drawing through the form?

PROPORTION >> Rational scaling of elements. Do the overall form and details feel right? Inten- tional control of the proportion.

LINE QUALITY >> Thicks and Thins! Be calligraphic. Control your drawing tools. CONTRAST >> ultra bright to super dark, does it read?

VOLUME >> Consistent output for your ability. Are you giving it 110% every day? Think on the page, don’t edit your ideas.

CONTENT >> One concise theme, not several designs on one sketch. One core idea with sup- porting ideas. How does the design go beyond something subjective that you like and become an objective solution for the intended user?

VARIETY >> No two designs are the same. Investigate all the options, go down every road, turn over every stone. Show that you have breadth to your design abilities.

HARMONY >> Design is cohesive.

CLARITY >> Design direction is obvious, clearly visually communicated. Can the sketch speak for itself?

FLAIR >> Control and liberties taken to create interest for the viewer. Can I see that again? Wow factor and pop. Does it Jump off the page?

Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby junglebrodda » November 30th, 2017, 8:29 pm

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BlackEmrald wrote:
yo wrote:Literally the ask is how to get better at sketching guys (or using shortcuts to be exact)...


While it may have been interpreted in this way, To be clear this isn't the intent behind the question. I really want to know about shortcuts, or ("techniques", as Yo says). Things that improve the speed/efficiency of the process. To me, the word "Shortcut" shouldn't have a negative connotation, necessarily.

While I suppose the whole "Practice" argument is valid, I think that to most this should go beyond saying.

Designers are problem solvers at their root, right? Well what solutions have designers found that address their design process? While I'm sure we would all love a month to sketch on a subject, in the real world that doesn't happen. I wanted to harvest the collective knowledge here to see where the process can be improved.


the shortcuts for speed & efficiency would seem to be dependent on the aims of the sketch(es), if it is to explore, figure something out,vs. present, communicate, or sell a design...for the former two, it maybe isn't so important that anyone other than the designer to see or "understand" these while the latter three are explicitly for the convincing & viewing of others...

ideally both sets would overlap but they don't always and as such the best way to raise the amount of overlap is to improve one's baseline level of sketching...or constantly be thinking about the eventual audience, which isn't always the best for speed & efficiency (because generally it takes a lil more care to ensure readability for others)
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Re: What are your sketching shortcuts?

Postby KenoLeon » November 30th, 2017, 10:48 pm

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I think sketching in/for Design can roughly be divided into:

1.Ideation, where you are trying to figure out the solution to a problem or come up with a product and 2.communication, where you are explaining visually to others your solution or product.

As such I believe shortcuts could be defined as whatever gets you to each goal faster and of course be effective for the intended audience and development stage.

During ideation I find that thinking visually and bouncing visual ideas back and forth from a piece of paper is the fastest way to come up with solutions or new forms. The other shortcut is paradoxically a lengthy and never ending study of forms,related things and mechanisms so you have something to draw from and complement whatever you put down on paper quickly, having a mood board sometimes helps speed up idea generation.

The goal I think is to have something outside the mind in paper physical or digital that you or others can look and say: that could work to solve a problem or be a product.

If these ideation sketches need to be communicated as is common in studios, I side with the view that practice is helpful as a shortcut, as examples I have 3 grey markers for 123 shading ( plus primaries if need be) and 2 pens for line weights, so I don’t have to spend time thinking on what to use, a set ¾ perspective view I go to that communicates plenty of information and perspective linework tricks like dividing perspective lines without a grid, hanging ellipses and on and on, but I did spend some time practicing so if I need to draw it I don’t have to figure out how to draw it, it's a tricky things as this can be a bigger more varied audience but by necessity these sketches can't be precious definitive things.

For a finished idea whose goal is to communicate clearly a set thing it depends on the audience I suppose, if your engineer only needs a quick pen sketch, then a quick pen sketch it is. For a more general audience or something that will be passed to other unknown stakeholders, the sketch I think needs to be at the least almost artistic, my shortcuts then have to do with a step by step process more than anything, 3d model as an underlay, or rough digital pencils, ink layer , 123 shading and shade and highlights layers. But again, I think you arrive to these shortcuts via a long trial and error process mixed with your own style discovery in service of your specific environment...
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