Importance of sketching ability. Is it possible to learn?

Having worked both in corporate and in several design firms, I think the challenge for a designer is to hit the ground running. Everyday that you are there not producing is not only costing the company money, but causing another designer to pull your weight.

Sketching is one of the tangable ways to evaluate the merits of a student, since they don’t have production products to show. I think the candidates most likely to strike a connection are the few that ideate compelling ideas and communicate them in sketches and renderings that inspire confidence in the people who are going to spend millions of dollars developing the ideas into products. It’s a lot to ask for, but it is the cost of entry to a great company or firm.

On a side note, many companies do have large rendering reviews with company VP’s and even presidents. 3 times a year two of our Coporate Presidents as well as the VP of Design review all of the new projects by all of the designers. Each designer presents the hottest renderings possible of only their best ideas, as a thumbs down at this point will mean not even a model will be made of the concept. In short, its important.

Thanks for the info!

If you want to do real conceptual stuff that will get you on glossy magazine paper, go to a design firm, work 80+ hours a week for peanuts.

On second though, don’t listen to this, it’s not worth it. Life experiences influence design, you work like that you’ll soon find no more life experiences to draw from, wither up, and die. Stay unemployed or work a crap job sketching 80 hours a week, see what happens…

Dude, could you tone down the positivity a bit? All than sunshine eminating form your post is blinding!

Seriously, no one said to stay inside and draw all day. Half of sketching is seeing. By all means get out there, explore the world. If you don’t have new things constantly being fed into you’re mental filter you run the risk of drying out and becoming a bitter old crank who likes to write depressing posts.

But it you can put it all together too well you can become a cocky over confident designer who likes to cruise the forum and poke fun at other posts. It’s a gentle balence.

ok, heres the thing. i hate sketching. i sketch like a kid. its frustrating, I just dont get it, and when i do come up with something its a complete accident. and thats just sketching. forget about asking me to marker render.

where i work im a the sole designer responsible for every product from client meeting through tooling blueprints - and i get them done right and ON TIME- but i dont want to go out and draw trees. which is why i should, i know, but they are just going to come out looking like something Barney did with his puppet hands on. So i rely on the computer too much, but no one here seems to care as long as i “get it done”. (accepting i have a problem is the first step…)

I know sketching is very important, but it pisses me off so i break my pencil in half and fire up solidworks.
Are all my good ideas doomed because i cant draw like a disney animator?

Hmm- firing up SWX at the beginning of the process is kinda scary. No matter how good you are at SWX there is no way that you can be faster than a sketch to lay out initial ideas. You CAN do your design all the way in CAD but it usually means that you are missing out on MANY design options.

Good point MasterBlaster

The few times where I have thrown down a good idea from the start I’ve always tried to push beyond it by sketching up more options. I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve looked back at the first sketch and not thought that it sucked in comparison with the 25th or 30th. Sketching is a way of seeing you’re thinking, you can use it as a tool to be self-critical, and build better more cohesive ideas…quickly.

Before I spend 80 hours on 3d modeling, I like to spend 20 sketching, so I can make sure the model is not a waste of my time! Maybe I suck, but it is the only way I can produce results I am proud of.

Plus it really puts that human spin on it to clients, marketing people, engineers. I think it draws them into you’re thought process. If you do it right it moves beyond pretty pictures and becomes a solid business case for manufacturing a product, making sure the product lives when it leaves your grubby fingers.


What type of stuff do you work on? Enlighten us a bit more to you’re situation.

Last week I went on an interview. I had 2 portfolios. (There was a reason for this that I won’t get in to here.) The first portfolio had no process sketches. My interviewer started to ask about my process… like did I sketch stuff or start on the computer.

My second portfolio had thumbnails for almost every project. This is what my interviewer was most interested in! He was now able to see how I think and that I could come up with many solutions.

I did have roughs too (these are computer generated and of course much tighter.) The interest was more in my thumbnails.

I went on another interview yesterday only with the second portfolio. Again, my interviewer got very excited when he saw my concept thumbnails.

I have been on several informational interviews in the past getting identical responses to my thumbnail sketches. I’m no illustrator either. Sketching is an important part of the process!

… so where do i go to take GOOD sketching and marker rendering classes in kansas city? or: where do i find somebody who is willing to teach me privately?

Good question… my school had crap for sketching and rendering classes. Remember, communication is what it is all about, flair is something you can add, but only after the basic visual language is mastered.

So in my case, where there where no classes available to me, and in the pre-Core77 design world (the humanity!) what could we do?

A few like minded students and I got together twice a week. We each bought rendering books (Dick Powel: Design and Rendering Techniques, Syd Mead Studio 1-3, Design and Rendering Techniques from Japan, and a few others) so as to build a shared library of refrence (today you can surf a lot of good refrence stuff). We would sketch for a minimum of 4 hours and hammer away at each other, point out each others weak spots and aplaud the strong point over the cheapest beer we could get and some crappy pizza!

Dude, if you want it you got to work on it. Time and patiience are key.

If you want some lessons, I’m in Portland. It might not be a bad idea to call up a local design firm and see if anyone is interested, throw 'em a few bucks and kiss some butt, and I bet someone talented could give you some time.


thanks yo!
my school had the same for sketching and rendering. i am thinking of trading skills with another designer + drawing, drawing, and drawing. i do need to master the basic visual language, i realize that. i switched career some years ago to be in ID, which is what i really wanted to get into many years ago, when i just couldn’t do what i wanted. so i am here for passion.

yes, “if you want it you got to work on it”.

i checked out your portfolio and i am very impressed: if you lived in the midwest i would love to take some lessons from you!

p.s. there’s a catalogue called “duluth trading co” that is all based on renderings. no pictures. i keep getting it just for the renderings!

Really good rendering and sketch book for product design-
Rendering in Mixed Media (By Joseph Ungar) Paperback / Watson-Guptill Publications
Helped me out alot! Helps you to create great renderings with minimum effort. Got it when i was in 2nd year in uni and never looked back! :smiley:

Thanks for the props Chicca, I’m west coast though, so we’ll have to nix the lessons.

Best of luck, It sounds like you are very committed, awesome.

Check out these sites for some pointers, I look at them all the time.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I get that cataloug too, it rocks.

Just a suggestion. If you are in the mid west, you can take up summer class in CCS for VIS COM. IT’s going to be intense since it will be condensed to just 6 weeks, but it will definitely benefit you.

One of the things that inspires me a lot when learning is looking at the best of the best. No, you are not trying to copy their technigues, but it gives you a sense of where your goal is. My reference is often car sketches or renderings, and I try to apply the techniques onto product sketches.

When you have a goal and work towards it, you will not reach your expect goal, but actually develop your own style naturally. A teacher can try to tell all the things about technique, but it’s really up to you to put them into use in your own way. Don’t get frustrated when you don’t get it. It takes time, but once you get it, you possess it!

I was told that as a graduating student, or someone applying for an internship, they are not hiring based on your ability as a designer, because you are not! They hire based on what skills you have that will benefit them. It can be sketching/rendering or computer skills. So being strong in sketching is important to get you into the door.

thanks to all of you for your ideas.

several of them are being implemented. :smiley:

Try the Gnomon DVD’s, really really useful!


Heck are you kidding

not only can you learn it

ever ones spellllin will git better when they bring bakk registration to the forrums