Drawing! Is it overrated?

So I spend a relatively small portion of my time doing ‘nice’ drawings. Sometimes I need to do clean drawings that focus on style, but most of my drawing is brainstorming stickman doodles aimed at problem solving, or it is more diagrammatic, purposely style-free sketches intended to illustrate a concept or sequence of events in the simplest manner possible. Overall very little styling-oriented sketching (although I have no problem doing that kind of drawing). I find that while I could spend more time on ‘nice’ sketches, there isn’t really much reason to do so, except for impressing other designers in an interview. But clients aren’t designers, so again, it doesn’t seem to matter very much. What kind of drawing do most of you do most of the time, and do you find much need to do high quality ‘nice’ sketches?

Scratches, scribblings, schemes, scrawlings, and thumbnails. I do more writing than sketching these days. Depends on what you’re designing I suppose.

Nice drawings? Pretty much never. I’ll do rough to medium sketches and once the idea is about 75% flushed out in my head I bring it into CAD. The sketching vs. CAD argument has been typed to death on these boards so all I will say about it is that I consider industrial design a close cousin to sculpting, except the object is functional in some way rather than just an artistic statement. With CAD I can “sculpt” virtually. I can look at every angle, and design to the best of my abilities within a given set of parameters.

Plus, I get a really pretty rendering and detail drawings are a snap. Hell I’ve sent just a .stp file to a factory in China with no drawings and got great results. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a 3D file is worth a thousand pictures!

Sketches are great for communicating ideas quickly, CAD is great when you need to really nail down the real life proportions and details. Both tools should be in your toolbox in my opinion.

Sketching is important if you can sketch well enough to get your idea across quickly. It’s a great way to explore form and styling.
But I rarely go past quick form sketching, and maybe that has to do with the type of design I am doing, I can see where more detailed exploration can be helpful in other areas.
The question of “Is it overrated?” depends on what you’re rating.
You could be great at sketching, but be sketching bad ideas, where does that get you?
You could have great ideas but not be able to get them out clearly on paper because of a lack of skill sketching.

To be a successful designer, you really need to be good at the whole process of design.
Of course it’s always nice if you’re also a rock star at sketching.

  1. clients can be desiners. I’ve been a client. Poor sketches were not received well by me

  2. all things being equal, your clients may not care about sketch quality, but when another firm comes through the door that is just a good, just as nice to collaborate with, but can visualize their ideas better, one wins, one doesn’t. I just outright stole a client from a competitor this week.

  3. the true measure of a man is what he does when no one is looking. Even if the first two didn’t exist, I would still do beautiful sketches because they are beautiful and deserve to be made.

  4. what’s your client list? I have some calls to make apparently :wink: joking joking!

How many times and ways has this been brought up?

To your credit, I think this is the most well phrased version of this question I’ve read!

Also, I should point out, my sketches are not the best most beautiful, but I do my best. If we can do better, I will have it re drawn before it goes to the client. AND none of this cane come at the sacrifice of ideas. A hard job we have.

I agree with what you’ve written, yo. For me it comes down to where it makes sense to invest the hours, and the relative value of solving specific problems at specific times. It’s easy to chew up a lot of time making sketches look cool, but it usually isn’t very productive until the visual language phase. I try not to contaminate the “what it is” part of the project with styling, because I find it throws clients totally off track. You know, you’re trying to lock down product concept and form factor/component layout, but the client is busy looking at a bezel and they aren’t contributing anything useful to the decision making process that leads into the next project phase. If I use styling at that point, it’s one style for everything so the client or end users are responding to a very controlled set of variables. And I always make sure client facing materials look good. Clean, nondistracting lines, etc. But I really try to hold off on styling until needs/delights, concept, form factor, and mechanism are locked.

I’m confused, your first post is about “nice sketches” and your second is about “styling”… Two different things, but in both cases your choice of words minimizes the impact of both.

It’s hard to separate the two sometimes. They can bleed together. The styling comments were in response to mrtwillis.

On the sketch itself: I think when you are peak efficiency, it just doesn’t really take much in the way of time to make a beautiful sketch. It requires skill, forethought, and the desire to do it. Even if the sketch is purposely devoid of product aesthetic, the page itself can and should have aesthetic integrity. I want the client to feel that the deliverable has value and should be treated as such.

On Aesthetic: Sometimes an aesthetic decision can drive other decisions, so it is important not to get everything entirely locked in and then slather an aesthetic overtop like a Neo-Classical architect, it all becomes so Baroque then. Instead I believe the aesthetic decisions can be better baked in from the start. I forget the designer, Italian I believe, Columbo maybe? When asked why he designed a particular shape that made for other complication in the product, he responded “because it is more beautiful this way”… that has value.

Man, that was you?..Time to step my game up! :smiley:

I think the last time I did a “nice” drawing was a few months after my undergrad and it was for a job interview. When I do sketch, it’s just to communicate the idea and move forward. Most of my time is spent attending meetings, benefit focus groups and trials. On the software side, I spend it in Excel and Word. I haven’t touched CAD software in over a year.

I agree…but for real life proportions I go to the workshop and shape the thing in real-life…way better to evaluate it’s proportion and size. A great designer should know how to sketch, prototype and 3D-model.

About sketching…You surely must be able to sketch your ideas on paper. For cataloging/conserving your ideas and communicating them to your team-members or client. Also when your a fast sketcher you’ll get many ideas on paper in a small time. Another advantage is that sketching works as a catalyst. When I’m sketching I get new ideas…and sometimes they come so fast that I can’t sketch all of them < great times.

And off course a well done sketch/persuasive drawing will surely sell your idea in these CAD-fatigue-times. So yes sketching/drawing can be important. But in the end it is the product that matters. It is only a tool to get the job done…and have it your way :wink:

BTW some very nice points made here…i must agree with all of them…doesn’t happen that often :wink: Hope my students find this topic.

I’m with you Atohms… sometimes a quick hack in the workshop teaches you so much and is such a nice prop to help you tell the story of the design to the client as well.

DRawing is one of the most important things n ID. One must know how to draw in order to make accurate sketches and renderings. And I think drawing teaches one to “see”, which is also very important. And how could one create a new form without being able to copy one from nature.

I think of the subject this way: How are my ideas affected by the limitations of my tools? If I do a quick sketch/Illustrator linework/nice render/volume model/CAD study I get a different result, a different time commitment, and a different answer to my questions. I think that we’re all subliminally influenced by our tools - if I’m trying to draw a certain shape by hand and it’s frustrating, I may not end up with that shape in my end drawing and if I start off in CAD I may be predisposed to use shapes and techniques that are easy to crank out. All of this goes back to how skilled you are in your particular toolset, although sketching wins first dibs in my book. It’s highly portable, very flexible according to your needs, cheap, very fast, and it really doesn’t take long to improve your proficiency compared to other tools.

I totally agree - and I’ve worked with designers who simply weren’t very proficient in drawing: both from the side of being too literal and forced, and from the side of the swooshy car-design style of sketch that usually lacks content. The former tend to suffer from insufficient aesthetic/form/surface development, and the latter can’t make anything actually work.

The drawing or sketch, as Yo put it, can be a strong motivation in the mind of the client or stakeholder and can make or break a design. Sketches and good drawings have a power that takes 1/10th the effort of a CAD rendering, but with the humanism and stroke gesture embodied, become a living thing.

I’ve heard of design firms where the designers can’t/don’t sketch, and have to admit I am suspicious. Perhaps they have other skills necessary to their firm’s disciplines, but they can’t be doing traditional I.D. without quick visualization tools like drawing…

There is a nice series going in the NYT about drawing; the opening sentence reminds me strongly of a Scott Robertson lecture I once attended, about how the human brain understands form and shape. The Shadow Knows - The New York Times

I think finished car-design-style sketches are overkill for most kinds of other design work, but they seem indispensable for that profession. Otherwise I think good drawings are time well spent.

From a client point of view regarding electronics, you can make up for mediocre sketches with 3D model sketches and renders. In my case, we care more about the story your trying to make (the thinking beginning half of the presentation) than your sketching skills. I’m sure this is different for every field.

From an internal designer point of view, especially for Asia, and I meet very few bad sketchers in the field, so it can’t hurt to try to sketch well.

Well put man, I’m going to be paraphrasing that!

sketching skills don’t replace thinking, rather they should augment it and bring it to life.

We do a lot of CE here… and a lot of sketching. Dig into the firms that do tons of CE like Astro and what not and you will find some hot sketches for sure.

On the spot diagrammatic visualizations are a very different kind of drawing, but should be beautiful. We did a collaborative design session with a client a few months ago. I quickly sketched out a diagram of a service concept on a giant flip chart pad… the client asked to have it so he could frame it for his wall… that artifact will be there for a long time as a physical talisman of our work together that day, that is power beyond the moment for everyone who comes through the door of this SVP at a fortune 500 to see.

Really digging these guys as a bench mark for that: