importance of sketching

i’ve been designing and building my own furniture for some time now. i see the end result pretty easily and i work very well off a doodle.

i applied to art center turning in doodles for sketches and thought i could gain access through my finished products. they called me on the merit of my furniture and told me i really do need to develop my sketches and renders.

so with that in mind, i have a few questions about sketching, and please forgive any ignorance. i really do want to learn.

  1. is sketching purely for the immediate communicaiton of an idea that will dictate if the idea is worthy enough to move into rendering?

  2. considering that i know how to draw (which i know is different), is it possible to learn product design sketching on my own? are there any books that can help? i was considering taking one of art center’s night classes INTRO TO COMMUNICATION SKETCH. but the description says you practice fundamentals like squares, circles and lines… is there any way i can get these kinds of basics on my own from a book…


  1. Yes.
  2. We used a book called Rapid Viz in school. This is some years ago, but helps with the quick communication sketch tools and techniques. From what I’ve seen, 1/2 of ACCD students know how to draw, and the other 1/2 just follow the rules and learn to draw the Art Center way. It’s competent, but a little generic after awhile if the true thought and feeling isn’t there.

Scott Robertson’s DVDs include high-end Photoshop rendering tutorials as well as obtuse topics like “rendering matte objects” which tells you the basics of how to shade and render complex forms. That might be a place to start.

(Scott you’re welcome for all the free publicity!)

There’s more to that. Like you said, the reason to sketch is to communicate, but to who? Sketches are used to represent concepts and designs. People need to look at these sketches to evaluate which one to go with, therefore, those sketches need to be understood by everyone.

So it’s not just about how you perceive your sketches, it’s about speaking to everyone. In another words, your sketches will need to represent you.

The thing that I seem to pick up from what you have said is that you are sketching for yourself, i.e. you have been making furniture on your own for some time now, so basically you are probably someone who knows how to sketch your own ideas so that you can read them, but not to communicate to others your ideas.

Also I don’t exactly think that sketches are just ideas which you choose as ‘worthy enough to render’. Sketches are design directions, not concepts. They represent a path on which you can develop, not just a sketch you choose to render so it looks ‘finished’.

As to ‘learning’, there is only so much you can learn from a book and what people tell you. The best thing for you to do is just sketch a lot. Do observational sketches of products, and use as many different materials that you can, i.e. pantones, papermate pens, colouring pencils, maybe even chalk on black paper. Traditional methods may produce some great communicative work. You’ll eventually find a way of sketching which you feel communicates your ideas.

Bookwise, maybe look at ‘Design Secrets: Products’… there are some good examples of products in development, which are shown through sketching. I recommend it.

If you’re not too shy it may be useful for you to put your sketches up on this post so people can crit you more directly.

Moved to sketching forum…

I also suggest you dig through this forum as there have been many in this situation, and a lot of good answers in the past…

Wanting to improve is the first step to improving.

I agree with gorgeous… doing it is the best way to get better. Think of it like learning a language. To be fluent you just cant read books, you have to speak it everyday, and it helps to get others around you that also speak it. When you start thinking in a language you have become totally fluent, and when you are able to think as your hand moves, you are fluent in visual communication.

How about the book Design Sketching?

so far in my education, I have learned that:

  1. 90% of the time no one visualizes a final product from a loose sketch or 3d mock up as well as I anticipate. I’ve adjusted and bring more complete sketches.

  2. Frequently people respond to the sketch/presentation as much as they do to the underlying idea. Subtle (or not so subtle) emotional qualities of a sketch are important as well as clarity.

  3. For better or worse, how well one sketches is still a bit of a yardstick by which designers are measured.

If you are good at observational drawing but new to ID drawing you can teach yourself. The main difference to me is that you cannot use the same meandering, reiterating, thinking-as-I-go sort of line in ID drawing as you might in drawing a figure for example. Forms are continuous, smooth, possibly geometric for many things you will draw. lines need to be simpler, CONTINUOUS and your perspective needs to be as clear and accurate as possible.

the book “design sketching” is good in terms of examples. The Gnomon videos are good – most of the demonstrators have a very accurate hand. Not everyone will draw like that. Jim Orr’s “Power Drawing” is good, just turn off the sound – I really don’t care for much of what he says about his drawing (lots of jargon, achronyms… kinda inspirational-speakerish).