Close

Is sketching important?

Postby yo » February 14th, 2008, 12:01 pm

User avatar

yo
Administration
Administration
 
Posts: 15913
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Location: SoCal
A student sent me the following email. Below is my response, but I thought it would be cool to see what you all thought.


Mr DiTullo,


I am a student from XXXXXXX writing a placement dissertation. My dissertation is based on whether or not a strong sketching skill set is required in a professional design practice. I enjoy sketching and personally think it is an invaluable skill to have, however the company I am at does not do any presentational sketch work to clients or any internal sketching. This made me ask the question is a strong sketching ability required in a professional design practice? I am trying to weigh up the value of a strong sketching ability against other development tools such as model making, prototyping and CAD work.

I know from your website and your involvement in Core77 that you have an exceptionally strong sketching ability. It would be fantastic if you could provide your thoughts and insights into this subject matter i.e. What do you as a professional class as a strong sketching ability? Do you find that designers that can sketch to a high standard are better designers than those that can’t? Compared to other forms of development does a strong sketching skill set take second place?

As a professional designer I know that you are very busy so any feedback, comments, suggestions or examples that you have to offer I would be extremely grateful for.


Kind Regards,


XXXXX





XXXXXXX_

Thanks for your email and the compliment.

Sketching is extremely important in the professional world for several reasons. The most obvious reason is efficiency of communication. Ideas tend to be visual. As someone explains an idea to you, you get a mental picture. That picture is subjective based on how you interpret words. A sketch visualizes the idea for the viewer, providing a shared visual experience that can be discussed, debated and refined.

You might say a 3d computer model does this as well, and you would be right. However, in the time it would take you to create one computer model of one idea, you could flush out 50 concept sketches, meet with a group, refine the ideas, and do another round of finished concepts. A sketch is fluid. It implies to viewers that this is still a work in process, and they are freer to have input, brainstorm, and share ideas. A sketch has that perfect amount of communication and interpretation. When the concept reaches an optimal state, then I feel confident going to 3d. If I am going to have one of my modelers spend 60 hours making a design, I want to make sure it is the RIGHT design, and the best thing we could possibly make. I don't do 3d myself because I don't want to design what I know I can build. My modelers are extremely talented, and speak that language fluently.

Beyond communication, sketching is a way of thinking. Throwing lines down, doodling through a problem, we find new solutions. Through documenting that thinking in drawings we go through the act of evaluating and building on thoughts until they are complete. We push beyond the obvious into the realm of the uncomfortable, where all good things tend to come from.

On a more minor level, it is one of the things in the product creation process that only we can do. It gains us respect, and elevates us from mere technicians to creatives. Spin a model around on screen and people are mildly impressed. Tear off a sheet of paper and throw down a beautiful sketch, and they are blow away, captivated, they feel they have witnessed something special. In our desire to integrate into the product process designers have learned how to speak the languages of business and engineering. It is paramount that we not forget out own language, the language of creativity and imagination.

It is these things that have gotten me into board room discussions and corporate planning meetings. Not my ability to read a spread sheet or revise a blueprint (though I do both). For these reasons I would never consider hiring someone who didn't enjoy sketching.

Good luck with the paper.

Michael

http://michaelditullo.com
Attachments
kettle.jpg
kettle.jpg (76.61 KiB) Viewed 16271 times
Last edited by yo on February 14th, 2008, 12:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Postby fatkid » February 14th, 2008, 12:35 pm

User avatar

fatkid
step three
step three
 
Posts: 138
Joined: August 27th, 2007, 6:56 pm
Location: AZ
I second everything that YO said and will add my two cents.
Not only is sketching important, but sketching WELL is important. In my experience potential employers and clients are looking for someone who not only understands manufacturing and 3D modeling, but sketches like a mad fool. I have actually been passed up for jobs because I couldn't sketch as well as the employer would have liked. If I had any advice to give to anyone, it would be to sketch as much as you breathe, it, like breathing, can only help you. I am regretting now not putting as much time as my classmates in school to improve my sketching and my career is suffering as a result :roll: .

Sketch on!
"You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever." -Dave Barry

Postby mbd » February 14th, 2008, 6:14 pm


mbd
step one
step one
 
Posts: 34
Joined: September 5th, 2005, 12:17 am
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
I agree that sketching is an almost essential tool. You can sketch an idea on a napkin, on the back of your shopping list, anywhere. All you need is a pen and paper. You don't need thousands of dollars worth of equipment and software to hone your skill. If you come up with a great idea when you are away from your computer, it doesn't matter as long as you can draw. As designers, it is part of our job to communicate our ideas as clearly and efficiently as possible. I don't care how fast you can model, I guarantee I can sketch way faster. Another aspect is that a persuasive sketch is one of the fastest ways to sell your design. As YO mentioned, excellent sketching is almost like magic to the lay person. If you are kick-ass at making sketch models or a 3D whiz, you can certainly get by with that alone, but why would you want to toss out one of the best tools you have?

There are very successful designers and architects that don't sketch very well, so they must have developed effective work flows that don't lean strongly on 2D problem solving. Here are a couple of examples.

This:

Image
Became this:

Image


Just from the sketch alone, would you have any idea that this:

Image

Would become this?

Image


In the above examples, if I you hadn't seen either designer's previous work, and they presented you with those sketches for their ideas, wouldn't you (wrongly) assume that they were not very good? Drawing is a skill that everyone can improve with practice. I think it is well worth the time investment.

Postby yo » February 14th, 2008, 6:47 pm

User avatar

yo
Administration
Administration
 
Posts: 15913
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Location: SoCal
what you don't see is the intermediary steps. I've seen a highly polished graphite rendering of an early version of that juicer. It originally had a spiral form in the center like in some of those quick thumbnail sketches)

Gehry does a lot of sketch paper models. Not the same as a 2d concept sketch, but very close in terms of the way it is used to communicate, collaborate, and refine. Certainly there are many steps before the incomprehensible doodle goes to a 3d CAD model. (check out the movie "The Sketches of Frank Gehry)

Postby billymenut » February 14th, 2008, 7:58 pm


billymenut
step four
step four
 
Posts: 316
Joined: September 27th, 2006, 4:54 am
Location: SPAIN/H.K
You're right Yo!!

Computer design in footwear is completly a waste of time.

If you wanna see how your collection is taking form is through the sketches.Once you get the collection defined,,,once everything is in the properly place then (if you have time,,,normaly you don't),,,make a render for a presentation.

Even if you want to make a render,,,is useless.In all the places I worked instead of render I did real scale models of upper and soles.

regards.

Postby rkuchinsky » February 14th, 2008, 8:26 pm

User avatar

rkuchinsky
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 5729
Joined: July 3rd, 2005, 9:20 am
Location: Toronto, Canada
I dont have much to add that you haven't already mentioned, but YES, sketching is important.

The only distinction I would make is sketching vs. rendering, which I feel is less important. A good sketch communicates a concept, idea, direction, thought, etc. It doesnt need to be fancy, doesn't need to necessarily be 100% correct (proportion/perspective, etc.), but it should get across as much information with the minimum of time/lines/effort.

IMHO, a good sketch should be disposable and not a work of art. It's purpose is communication of an idea and its role in the design process is one that is temporary.

I've ranted about this before, but i'll mention it again as i think it's relevant (and billymenut touched on it)- all too often I see designers consider a sketch/render precious. Spend 8 hours on a PS rendering, when there is no additional info that a 5 min sketch wouldnt communicate. This is backwards. Renderings have their time and place, but i consider a sketch like a snippet of verbal dialog. You wouldn't spend hours carefully crafting and proofing a formal speech about your concept in the middle of a brainstorming session... a sketch is a visual equivalent of a conversation exchange. Get your point across as simply and easily as possible, generate feedback, adjust direction and move on.


Nicely worded reply, btw, Yo.


R
The Directive Collective
http://www.directivecollective.com

Postby cg » February 14th, 2008, 9:28 pm

User avatar

cg
full self-realization
full self-realization
 
Posts: 2498
Joined: January 10th, 2004, 12:21 am
Location: San Diego
I think it's interesting that the student came to you specifically to ask this question since you are well known for your sketching talent. Don't you think he got the answer he was expecting?

Anyway, I've hired several designers who can't sketch at all and they add tremendous value to what we do as an experience-design practice. We use many modes of narrative to communicate intent to various audiences in the fuzzy-front-end. I frequently have to throttle traditional Industrial Designers who tend to "over design" early on, thereby ending conversations instead of starting them. But I do think sketching plays its part in post-definition phases.

I think if you asked Gerhy, he'd tell you that rapid model-making trumps sketching, but they compliment each other and sketching tends to "spark" the model making process.

Postby jbhitman » February 14th, 2008, 11:04 pm


jbhitman
step three
step three
 
Posts: 156
Joined: January 30th, 2007, 2:46 pm
I think I have to start by saying, that the extent of sketching depends on where you are, and who you want to be.

In my office, barely anyone can really draw- and even they rarely get to showcase this talent. But almost no one can talk through a design idea or concept without throwing down some chalk (we have chalkboards everywhere), or ink on something.

Some of my coworkers want our partners/ customers to give us the sketches and we CAD it up. Myself and a few others raise an eyebrow and would love to keep them busy with this- but we have stuff to do too. But I, WANT, to be an effective sketcher, my coworker chooses the other. Yet he is no less vital to our success.

In places like... er... big footwear places or the similar... taking 1 of 50 sketches to the next level is status quo. Most of these are quite nice by the way- but... in other places you might not see a marker in the building.

For me, it comes down to who I want to be, and how I'd like to do it. Sometimes a couple not so clean sketches is good enough, sometimes Photostick is a decent helper.
Mo' Power!

Postby blaster701 » February 15th, 2008, 7:41 am

User avatar

blaster701
full self-realization
full self-realization
 
Posts: 896
Joined: October 21st, 2004, 7:34 am
Location: Pompton Represent!
Rapid, clean and communicative sketching is a must. It comes down to simple $$'s. It is low overhead for paper and pens. As mentioned above, it is very efficient to crank out concepts.

Having said that, sketch foam or paper models are also valid. Not quite as fast as pen on paper, but still good.

I would comment that if it is not a priority at your current office, the managers do not place an emphasis on sketching.

Re: Is sketching important?

Postby blaster701 » February 15th, 2008, 8:31 am

User avatar

blaster701
full self-realization
full self-realization
 
Posts: 896
Joined: October 21st, 2004, 7:34 am
Location: Pompton Represent!
It is these things that have gotten me into board room discussions and corporate planning meetings. Not my ability to read a spread sheet or revise a blueprint (though I do both). For these reasons I would never consider hiring someone who didn't enjoy sketching.



http://michaelditullo.com[/quote]

This is very true for me also.

Postby Brett_nyc » February 15th, 2008, 11:29 am


Brett_nyc
full self-realization
full self-realization
 
Posts: 875
Joined: May 30th, 2006, 9:57 am
good topic. I think sketching is hugely important. Some industries like automotive and footwear depend more on it to create the sheer volume of design ideation needed to remain fresh and provocative in the marketplace. I've found that in the consultancies I've worked at, it comes more in waves every few weeks.

Postby fatkid » February 15th, 2008, 1:06 pm

User avatar

fatkid
step three
step three
 
Posts: 138
Joined: August 27th, 2007, 6:56 pm
Location: AZ
I really like where this thread is headed, I think it provides insight to what is going on inside peoples heads. I would be interested to see if others have experienced anything similar to this situation:

Interviewer: "We are looking for some who really understands the design process and can add to our design team. Understanding manufacturability is really important to us as we turn out high volumes of _blank_.

Interviewee: "That sounds great, I can do this, let's look at my portfolio..."


Significant Time Passes...


Interviewer: "Your stuff looks great and your process is very similar to ours, very good."

Interviewee: "Thanks."

Interviewer: "Unfortunately, your renderings aren't as dazzling as we would like, so we really aren't interested."

Interviewee: (blinks) "Uh, ok, but the ad stated that you were looking for an engineering-minded designer..."

Interviewer: cutting you off "...Yeah, but we really need someone who can do kickarse renderings that would make Chip Foose cry, so thanks anyway."


Of course this situation is a little contrived, but I have had this kind of thing happen more than once. Why do so many companies place ads for Nasa capable engineeringdesigners (I just invented a word!) and look for hot shot render-monkeys during the interview? I know that there are a few, and I mean a FEW, people who can really do this, so why are non-prestigious companies thinking this is the norm? Am I delusional, or did I miss some secret designer meeting where everyone became rockstar designers?

Sorry if I sound a little bitter, but this kind of thing comes as a slap in the face when it happens.

What are your thoughts?
"You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever." -Dave Barry

communication

Postby kattyface » February 15th, 2008, 1:21 pm


kattyface
 
Posts: 1
Joined: February 15th, 2008, 1:13 pm
i do not believe anyone has yet mentioned this, but in my experience as an interior and industrial designer, presenting a sketch as the initial concept (rather than even a "quick" 3d model) is crucial if for no other reason than this: it prevents a client from getting too caught up in the details.

3d models have a tendency to look like a refined idea, even if they are a basic form or structure. i have found this intimidates clients and in a way makes them closed-minded about the next steps in the design process. clients need a gestural sketch to imaginatively build upon during the first phases of a design.

Sketching Use Experience

Postby dmalouf » February 15th, 2008, 1:43 pm


dmalouf
 
Posts: 1
Joined: February 15th, 2008, 1:39 pm
Location: Brooklyn, NY
I'd like to take a different angle to this and suggest that sketching is not just about hand to paper, but rather an intended form of communication to yourself (for reflection) or to others for conversation and collaboration.

A great book to read on this topic is by Bill Buxton the Principal Deisgn Researcher at Microsoft and founder of Alias. It is called "Sketching User Experience"

Check it out!

-- dave

Postby lueda » February 15th, 2008, 1:53 pm


lueda
 
Posts: 1
Joined: February 15th, 2008, 1:40 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Sketching is important. No one can deny that. Although it is the way the designer chooses to get from start to finish is what really matters.

When I was in school I was taught specific ways to tackle each project. When I graduated and started designing in the real world I learned a lot about what I am really good at and what I am not so good at. I developed my own design process based on how my brain works. Everyone is different and should not follow the same design process. Use the basics and design the way you can be the most productive and creative. Feed off your natural talents to become who you are.

You can be taught how to design, you cannot be taught how to be a designer. -

Go to the Next Page

Return to sketching