How many sketches/rederings does it take to?

I agree with you Atohms, I love a good computer rendering, but after the concept work is done. Nothing beats a sketch for speed of communication, perhaps speech, but that cannot often describe what a few lines on the nearest piece of paper will. Quick prototype in any material, even better.

Why a sketch over a render? A couple of reasons.

A sketch has a openess of interpretation, the designer can look at it later and see something new, the viewer can interpret the sketch in his own frame. Kind of like reading a book or watching a movie made from the same book. The sketch is the book, materials, surfaces, functions, etc. can be imagined, personally interpreted. The computer rendering is the movie, clear and spelled out and fixed in the imagination. At the early stage, what is needed is to paint in as broad strokes as possible, to find the possibilities and find the resonance with the product.

Fear of commitment. When sketching, each iteration for me is the focus. I am usually totally into that design, thinking it is the best one yet. Then after flipping the paper over and starting on the next, it then becomes the prime expression of the idea, I am committed for that moment, to that sketch and concept. This goes on for 10-15 sketches evolutions of a concept until a little stack of paper sits on the desk showing the evolution. 3-5 get sorted into the reject pile, and the rest get kept to think about. Each period of commitment was maybe 5-40 minutes. When I fall out of love with a design, the mourning period is brief, I did not have that much invested in it. When the client does not find the love in the sketches, a new set can be explored and gray ideas refined into new concepts. When I can create a CAD concept in the same period of time, I often do, to print and use as a basis to hand sketch over. However, when a period of time is invested in CAD creation that becomes significant, hours or days to reach a concept, the fluidity of change is lost. I have a higher degree of commitment, and I have spent the time following one solution when many more solutions may have been explored.

Example: ( this could be an actual design summit )

Suppose a company with no limit on resources or budget, let’s say British Petroleum, was faced with a significant physical problem to which it did not have a ready solution. A sticky dirty mess to clean up from a huge area. If it were to fly the best designers in the world to its headquarters and discuss possible solutions, what method would be most efficient? Money is no really really no object in this project.

A whiteboard, pen and paper are going to be indispensable. The room is going to be filled with sketches and the engineers and oil rig workers are going to be giving opinions on what will and won’t work. There might be some pressure sensitive tablets and styluses sketching away, but my money would be on the human hand gripping marking instruments. Hundreds of solutions will emerge from the discussions in that room. People from all areas will be inspired from looking at scratchy lines on paper and thick black lines drawn on washable whiteboards. Hopefully some good ideas would be generated.

Will there be a couple guys sitting at SolidWorks stations parametrically programming and rendering up new solutions? No.

The biggest possible enhancement to have sitting in this room would be a physical scale model of the broken system and a tank full of seawater and crude oil. Pictures on a flatscreen may keep your hands from getting dirty, but they are not going to solve the problem.

To answer the main nebulous question, for an average project, I sketch about 20 initial concepts, follow those up with 15-20 additonal, and maybe 5-10 for each round after that as things get tighter.


at nxakt:
I love the analogy of the book (sketch) and the movie (render). It works in so many ways. A book is cheaper and faster to create than a movie. A book is open for interpretation and discussion (after-all everyone will perceive the characters in another way, there will be similarities but also differences). Ideal to get some discussions going < and this should be what we are after in the initial phase of a project. Sometimes someone misreads my drawings and comes up with an even better idea. I don’t see that happening with a rendering.

And yes design is all about exploration. So if you have no time (as usual) you need to explore lots of ideas fast. I find that with current Cad-programs I get sucked into the details and lose way to much time. Also Ctrl-Z really isn’t a blessing in this phase.
So I would even advise to refrain from digital sketching in the initial stages of the development-process.

And yes please get your hands dirty and cut-up…you’ll learn more from one afternoon in the workshop than 2days in a cad-environment. Sometimes it looks like it all comes down to this: “Embrace failure and learn from it.”



Oh and BTW…off topic.

It’s not the engineers of BP who f*cked up. (Maybe a little but they aren’t the ones to blame) It’s the politicians who thought it wasn’t necessary to put emergency-valves on the drilling-platforms. In Europe it is mandatory. Why isn’t it in the US? Because such valves cost a whole lot of money and the oil-lobby really has the politicians in their pocket (read: they decide which laws are approved and which aren’t). I would say thank mr Bush for it. A late farewell gift :wink:



I really doubt that a movie is faster to do than a book, but I haven’t worked on either so I don’t know.

A friend of mine told me a pretty good quote the other day. “Process is not a deliverable” which means that as important as process is, it is not a deliverable, it’s a means to an end. The act of sketching hundreds of ideas is not a deliverable either. I understand that it is important to work through different ideas, but why even bother sketching many of them out if you know that the styling is wrong from a mood board, or that the the configuration is not going to work due to some ergonomic reason or another.

It sounds like there is a lot of sketch for sketch sake going on. I suppose it is important to look busy at work but doing thousands of sketches for a single project? I don’t buy it. Does it take a thousand sketches to describe 10 and then 3-5 concepts for a toothbrush?

I think you’re showing your own personal preferences here than an objective guideline to better design. Of course we could get into a huge philosophical debate about what constitutes “better” design. Is “efficient” design really better design, and what do YOU mean by efficient? Is a Camry the best car design because it sold the most, and round and round we go.

But just to comment on that piece of advise, I have learned just as much from CAD as I have working in the shop. They each have their benefits. If you want to efficiently explore a ton of experimental forms and form interactions/highlights, material breakups, trim, then good luck achieving in a workshop what an experienced CAD person can show you in the same amount of time.

2d renderings can be just as useful in the right situation. Digital sketching may not be the right answer for you, but I can get a ton of more content out by exploring digitally. I always thought a designer should be able to decide what sort of tools will be necessary to achieve the best results for the particular project in question, not dictate what and how much of a certain tool should be used for ALL circumstances and for all individuals. It seems counter-intuitive to attempt to do so.

I dunno, I think some of his post was at least relevant to the OP’s question, however, SK maybe you could give us an example of how many designs you could generate to answer the OP’s question?

I will be the first to admit that I find parts of the design process enjoyable (for me), I will also admit that I found nothing enjoyable about verifying home-owners insurance, and this was an incredibly efficient process. I also pity those that have to separate their work-life from their personal life because one is fulfilling and one is not, and i’ve seen that go both ways.

Do you have any research in regard to how many designs it would take using generative design tools to arrive at a solution?

Can you find a way to present this data in a way that doesn’t point out designers as Luddites please?

To modsquad:

You are right. It is all about personal preferences.

If you do feel best in a CAD-environment please don’t let me stop you.
It just that I see my students go into CAD way to soon and stop exploring ideas. Therefore they usually put lots of time in just one idea. For me product-development is all about exploring every possible direction (and communicating this to my client). For me this exploration/combination of ideas is best done through sketches and mock-ups (sometimes really quick and dirty :wink:
Off course sketching and prototyping skills are really important in the concept-phase of the project. But I do still find myself reaching for pen and paper even when I’m with the mould-builder and we have a last-minute problem. Just my way of doing things.
I guess I’m already old-skool :wink: more analog than digital.

Many grtz

This topic has gotten pretty interesting. These days I do find myself putting a lot more time into consumer research boards, mood/theme boards, and creating a world for my product solutions to live in… but I also have 13+ years of doing this under my belt. I do find some of the younger designers going to final solution faster (too fast) and not taking the time to finesse the details, how two shapes come together and from a negative form, controlling the subtleties of every section, finding a creative way to hide fasteners but still allow for disassembly (without just having a screw boss plopped in). I see a lot of “good enough” and “close enough”… I’m not saying sketching more gets you there, but there seems to be a correlation for me in my process.

First of all, a student or designer that fiddles with one render for a week obviously doesn’t know what the hell they are doing in CAD. I’m lightning fast in Pro/E. My love of the render doesn’t come out of thin air, it is because a rendering has been a very effective tool in my arsenal. I’ll get to your argument about prototypes in a moment, but first some thoughts on sketches vs. renders.

Yes I sketch, but I don’t make 1000 sketches of the same idea. When I have an idea I like and want to develop further, I move into CAD. There are a number of reasons for this. First, I like drawing in a 3D space. Does it take a little longer that a 2D sketch? Usually, but there are other benefits to a model I’ll talk about in a minute. I also really like being able to spin and zoom and see what I am creating in a 3D environment, especially since the final product will be a 3 dimensional object. If I where creating a painting or drawing, sketches would be all I need, but I’m making a sculpture. I like using a chisel (so to speak), not just a pencil.

Some designers will argue that sketching an object 1000 times is the only correct way to flush out an idea. I disagree. 1000 sketches makes me start to hate what I’m drawing. It is tedious and boring. Many times the sketches actually lie to me. What looks like a cool chair on paper suddenly becomes not so cool when you adjust it for ergonomics. With a CAD model I know what I’m getting. One measurement is worth a thousand opinions, so the saying goes.

Now, a prototype is more efficient than a CAD model rendering? This is where you lose me. Yes, we make prototypes, but they are expensive as hell. We don’t have a full shop in our office, so I don’t have the option of getting my hands dirty whenever I want. Our prototypes come from our factory in China, or we make them domestically if it needs to be done faster. One chair prototype done in Chicago will cost thousands of dollars. A CAD model with rendering is a couple hundred bucks on average. We usually like to wait until we have interest from a customer (based on a rendering) BEFORE we make prototypes. The exception being a concept that is easy to prototype and won’t cost a ton of money, but needless to say that doesn’t happen very often. Plus, if the customer wants to see what the object would look like in red instead of blue, I don’t have to wait for the paint to dry. :smiley: Believe me, I LOVE power tools and actually making real stuff, but the situation I’m in doesn’t really allow for it on a daily basis. CAD is a great alternative to the costly and time consuming process of prototyping every single concept.

Designing a product and bringing it to market is a long process with many steps along the way. A sketch is a very efficient way to create an idea and communicate it, but there is still the process of turning that sketch into a real life product. Unless all you make are pillows or one offs, there is a good chance your concept will reach a CAD stage somewhere along the way. I personally prefer to create that CAD file myself. I like having control over my parametric model. I like the fact that I can make easy tweaks and changes when asked to do so. The extra work I put into the front end of the process often saves me time at the back end. Often times a render I did months ago will suddenly spark interest from a customer, and I’ll need to send detail drawings to the factory ASAP. Since my concept is already modeled, I can make the detail drawings quickly and email them, so that the factory can get started on prototype #1.

To me there is no absolute right or wrong way to design. That is what makes it so cool. But I think people who slam CAD and renders are people who maybe don’t know how to use it quickly and effectively in their work flow. It is an awesome creative tool if you take it beyond engineering and use it to push the limits of your imagination.

It is true that the new generation of rendering tools with HDR lighting simplifies the setup immensely and shortens the time down. Rhino NxT works really nicely for me to get a quick render. Bunkspeed’s renderer I also like. I have in the past gotten very hung up on a material or trying to achieve a certain lighting effect that a more experienced renderer might have been able to configure more quickly. I have looked back on those experiences as time that I might have better spent. Interestingly, if you look at the vintage concept sketches discussion, you can see that it is also possible to fall into the same trap by hand. You can see where the technique can overwhelm the design. I’m sure somewhere forty years ago there was a similar debate about when to pick up the airbrush and when to keep drawing. Frisket paper and a knife must have seemed to some just as limiting and solidifying as computer modeling does to some today. At the same time, the guy with the legendary airbrush skills found it totally empowering to work with the highlights as opposed to the lines.

A bad shape is a not going to be fixed by rendering it in seductive materials. The same holds true for computer or exaggerated perspective airbrush. It will look pretty cool though.

I interpret the suggestion here in this thread and board in general is that 1000 sketches of an item make one very familiar with that item. Not that any single project has to be sketched that many times to get to a result. Similarly with CAD modeling, model a chair or shoe a thousand times and you are going to be very good at it. I have sketched a thousand snowboard bindings in my life, they flow out pretty easy now. But for any given new project 20-30 is more than enough to start.

My process now is half and half, first sketch the idea. Sketch the real world proportions of constraints in CAD or a human figure in the need position. Print out the rendering at 25% gray value. Sketch with pen over the top of the printout. Go back into CAD for some additional parts and relationships. Model, print and sketch, and repeat. I work the variations out with pen and paper as opposed to trying to model variations, a matter of speed and fluidity.

The term “prototype” has a bit of a double meaning in this discussion. I use it in terms of a physical sketch. The best show I ever saw in this regard was from Konstantin Grcic at a Zurich Museum. The show had the hand made models that he used to work out the ideas, displayed next to the final product. He uses cardboard for many of the ideas. Not thousands of dollars of machining of precious CAD models, just knife cut and bent and glued cardboard. 1:1 scale. Amazing stuff, and it completely changed my approach to design. Minimize the distance from each process, see it and touch it as soon as you can, there is no advantage in the virtual alone. The full article excerpted below is here.

And a good interview here.

I agree, and have found that when the two processes are used together in a fluid way, the results are better than used in exclusive or distinct steps.

Just to be clear on something since there’s some misunderstanding me think:

You are not a good designer if you sketch the same idea a thousand times. You need to sketch a thousand different ideas…sketching is great for fast and broad exploration of ideas. I find that I get more and more (different) ideas while sketching. Sometimes I can’t sketch fast enough since the ideas keep coming…I love it when this happens.

BTW: I’ve made a classification of sketches in another post:

Prototypes can be interpreted as broad as sketching. There’s doodels and there’s the super-persuasive-presentation-drawings.
So as the post above mentioned. You should start with cardboard, some glue and a knife.
I’ll refer to a article on core: HallMfg: 24 chairs in 24 hours - Core77
and the Grcic-article in the above post.

Again I’m not dissing CAD…I’m just saying that it should be used wisely.
I don’t start working on a CAD model until the concept is chosen and every problem has been solved via sketching or mock-ups.
That’s just my philosophy. And I’m not saying that it’s the right one…just sharing my opinion on the matter.

BTW love this approach… Back and forth, back and forth

interesting discussion.I dont have much experince all in all. BUt I would say sketching is really important, although not without borders. It’s a waste of time to sketch the same thing 1000 times if you’re sure the first will be the best. BUt on what I’ve experienced teachers(I’m still in that phase) want you to discover more and yes sometimes it opens new doors. And sketchin one thing lets me understand it more, simplify it more etc.As for the render it is something that akes up more time and it may be something that obnly helps you sell the product since that is usually what gets the attention of the buyer, a wiced sketch, correct me if I’m wrong. BUt it isnt always necessary sometimes you can model right away.

The 1000 sketches is an exaggeration of course. What I should have said is that I like to edit things down and figure things out in my head rather than drawing them all. I often sit and visualize with my eyes closed or staring off into space, and I try to picture the finished product. I do this whether I’m at work or not, it never really stops. When an idea pops into my head that I’m exited about, I’ll start doing some rough to medium sketches, mostly to map out in mind how I’m going to tackle it in 3D. When I’m in CAD, I’m still sketching in a way, because I’m going in and out of sketch mode, and my curves still need to look as sweet as they would on paper, otherwise the model will suck. You still need the basic ingredients of an exciting design whether its a sketch, a CAD model, a block of clay, etc.

I like the idea of using stiff paper for prototypes. I’ll have to play around with that some more. One thing I often do is print full size shaded views from Pro/E so I can be sure of the size and proportion. Even the mighty CAD programs can lie to you every now and again. :sunglasses:

ah, but how do you know the first sketch is the best unless you do more than one?

Never short circuit the process. It does not go well. I think the importnan thing to remember is that there are different kinds of drawings for different purposes. 5-10 pages of thumbnails kicks things off. 10-20 totally different concepts sketches gets people talking about possible solutions. Once selected down to 3-5 solutions, 3 variations on each helps you flush them out and make a better decision, now your down to 1-3 options you know you definetly want to see in CAD or sketch models, once those are in process I keep sketchig through different details, intersections, and nuances I could not have forseen before 3d, but I is important to keep going through the iterative process to make the best holistic design you can, but then I’m a bit of a “nitzer”. If I do t do my due dilligence i’ll never be satisfied with the result… I’m never satisfied with the result anyway, but at leaste I’ll know I gave it everything I could.

Totally agree. I always print out my tooling drawings full scale, so important. You can get it pretty far on screen, but when you print it out full scale and lay it out on a conference table, and pull in a few othe desiners, you just see things you would miss on screen for some reason. I like to get the red pencil out and sketh in possible cross sections and detail variations on the print out. It helps me. This is still part of the sketch process even though it is not a formal drawing per se.

I also like to take the CNCd mo k ups or Z orp prints we do and car l e at them with an exacto to get a section I want just right and then give that back to the modeling team to pit onto the CAD.

I agree on the later now that I reconsider it. As for the solutions and options, I meant 1-2 sketches are sometimes enough to decide wether the option might be good or is a dead end.

[quote=“carton”]I really doubt that a movie is faster to do than a book, but I haven’t worked on either so I don’t know.

A friend of mine told me a pretty good quote the other day. “Process is not a deliverable” which means that as important as process is, it is not a deliverable, it’s a means to an end. The act of sketching hundreds of ideas is not a deliverable either. I understand that it is important to work through different ideas, but why even bother sketching many of them out if you know that the styling is wrong from a mood board, or that the the configuration is not going to work due to some ergonomic reason or another.

It sounds like there is a lot of sketch for sketch sake going on. I suppose it is important to look busy at work but doing thousands of sketches for a single project? I don’t buy it. Does it take a thousand sketches to describe 10 and then 3-5 concepts for a toothbrush?[/quote]

very interesting!
“sketch for sketch sake”
Is it all froth perpetuated by the boss/client or is the designer a mental miser when it comes to developing many ideas by saying its too much sketching.

I understand. Yes, 1000 sketches on one idea, that’s just innefficient!

The Russian judge gives Deez a 4.3. Your hiatus from the boards has left you a bit rusty on your flaming skillz.

I was hoping this thread was going to be full of jokes like-

“How many ants does it take to screw in a light bulb” “Two, but I don’t know how they got in there”

Instead I learned something. At least it’s Friday.