Too Many Sketch Journeys

The forum is being hijacked by “sketch journeys”. TOO MUCH. It’s a fundamental skill, it’s not critical. I’ve been doing this for a very long time and have known many, many extraordinary designers and architects that couldn’t sketch and as many designers that could draw beautifully but couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. Design is not about how well you can sketch or draw. It’s about how well you solve problems. It’s about form and detail and an understanding of how the thing your designing fits into the environment and society, how the user interacts with it physically, intellectually and emotionally, etc., etc., etc. – sketching is a very tiny part. If you can’t sketch to communicate find another way.

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Yes, I think there’s a lot of sketch journeys popping up.
Sketching is a fundamental skill. However, there seems to be more and more students graduating without knowing how to problem solve visually through sketching.
Not every design job is about problem solving so sketching that can communicate your thoughts and design direction is a must (automotive, fashion, CE, etc).
If a student is competing for consultancy or in-house design positions, they better know how to communicate visually. I hate seeing half-baked 3D CAD models or students trying to explain their concept by hand waving.

Not every design job is about problem solving so sketching that can communicate your thoughts and design direction is a must (automotive, fashion, CE, etc).

Yes, it is,all about problem solving. It’s not design if it isn’t.

Interesting topic. I agree with FH13 that sketching is a fundamental skill. But I believe it is more complicated than that. There is sketching and then there is sketching.

There is sketching as a form of communication. This skill can be aquired in a relatively short time and it doesn’t look pretty. It’s the typical whiteboard-lemmeshowyouwhatImean kind of sketching. Sketching as a very functional tool. The Mark Newson sketchbook pages Core recently posted are a good example of this. Ugly as sin but we all know exactely what he means. (If you haven’t seen it check it out here



And then there is sketching that jumped the shark.
Look at products like this:

Without knowing the design sketch behind that product I am very sure that thing looked really really HOT. The kind of marker rendering everybody will give you a pat on the back for. But the thing itself looks like shit.
And this is where I see the problem in overemphasizing sketching. Products start looking like cool sketches but not like cool products. But very often designers are pitching sketches of products to non-designers. And non-designers will always pick the hot, totally rad, colorful, alien-spaceship sketch over the boring cylinder. So design studios are looking for people who can sketch stuff that looks persuasive because that’s what they sell. And designers are adapting to that - even obsessing over how many flashy bells and whistles they can sketch into something. It’s just an easy way to make a sketch look “more real” by throwing in funny shapes and forms and textures and knobs and vents. And in the end you have a whole bunch of physical products that look like weird 3D caricatures of copic sketches.

Steve Jobs reportetly hated 2d renderings or images of designs. He always demanded physical objects. Just imagine a sketch of, say, the iphone 5. Probably the most boring sketch in the world. A friggin’ rectangle. But in person it’s an amazing object. An object that would probably have never happened if someone would have made a decision about it by looking at sketches alone.

So yeah, sketching is great and being good at it is great and certainly no downside. But the flashy kind of rendering should go away. Especially in times of keyshot and co. the mantra that copic renderings are faster than computer renderings isn’t always true anymore. And it will shift further and further. The modern designer should be good at communicating his ideas by a mixture of communicative on-the-fly whiteboard sketches, words and good arguments. Raw technical skill will be less and less important in the future I guess.

But still, I don’t mind the sketch journey threads here. They are fun to follow and certainly don’t hurt.

All I will say is there is nothing wrong with wanting to share your journey and inspire others to improve.

With posts like this, its no wonder that young designers (like myself) possibly lack confidence to reach out to more senior people with wise tips.

I opened a sketch advice thread earlier today, hoping to find ways to improve my sketching ability. There is also a forum section for ‘sketching’ so if you don’t like the fact that people want to branch out and find ways to improve their sketching, then simply don’t visit that part of the forum.

Simple, happy days! :sunglasses:

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The razor is exactly my point. You solve the problem and then then you must come up with 10+ different sku’s for different brands and stores every 6 months. At that point, it becomes purely an aesthetic exercise whether it is good or bad. It’s not exciting but it’s reality.

Why do we have dozens of different toothbrushes? Does each styling form solve a specific and different problem? No they all do the same thing. Which one does it better is a matter of opinion and unfortunately you probably buy it by the way it looks…or do you test them out at the store?

Marc Newson is an established designer almost a brand/artist where companies will pay for his style and name. Entry level designers can show that level of sketch as long they also show refined sketches, 2D Illustrator or PSD and great 3D CAD models, renderings and prototypes as the end product…unfortunately, that’s hardly the case. If a student just shows that level of sketch and expects other designers to refine it and model it then I would skip him or her for the one that can show me a refined solution.

Isn’t sketching an absolute necessary skill for designers? Anybody can solve a problem, we have the ability to also make it marketable.

Incorrect.

Now I’m confused. Dan Lewis is a more senior person (no offense). What you quoted from Dan Lewis is indeed a wise tip.

So if a senior person’s wise tips are not a pat on the back, does it make it no longer a wise tip?

It seems that the root of the problem is that Dan would rather see “problem solving journeys” rather than random sketches of products that aren’t solving anything in particular. While I agree that the root of design is in problem solving, I don’t see anything wrong with people trying to improve their sketching and then later use those skills to solve problems. It would be extremely difficult to learn design sketching, and design thinking in the same sketch session for someone with no experience. The ultimate goal is for communication, but lets not forget that there’s a long journey and process to get there as a student.

Also, there are many different kinds of designers, some communicate via sketching, some cad, and others in models. These threads are most likely coming from designers that find value in communicating through sketching. The designers that Dan speaks of that can’t sketch think in other ways, we’re all different in our creative process.

Dan, why not jump into one of these threads and offer the feedback that you think is most crucial? I sure wouldn’t mind someone senior giving me their opinion regardless if it’s negative thoughts or positive thoughts, and I’m sure others wouldn’t mind either, it’s all helpful.

Dan,

There are not too many sketch journeys. Those are a great use of the discussion boards.

What is not a great use of the discussion boards is what your doing.

If you want in depth conversations, the solution is to start them. Not to prevent others from improving their skills.

Turn that desire to problem solve on.

“Design is not about how well you can sketch or draw”

Agree with that but funny thing is that:

  1. If i see great ideation & sketching skills I’m hooked on learning more about the designer’s portfolio and his other skills.
  2. If the sketches suck, I close the PDF and forget about it after letting the student know his skills are not up to par with others.
  3. If I see no sketches and just pretty renderings then I don’t know how they arrived at their final solution so a big red flag. And usually these final renderings are very primitive 3D CAD models.

This could be a a long debate but implying that students don’t need to sketch well does a disservice to them. Maybe they should start an “Ideation Journey” or “Problem Solving Journey” which would draw more content based feedback rather than technical drawing aspects. But it depends on the student and if they are learning to sketch or if they want to improve their visual communication and problem solving skills.

Well said yo!

I agree with you on this point! This was what I was trying to ‘communicate’ with my previous post! Apologies if it came across in the wrong manner.

I understand Dan’s point.
What might irk him is that students and recent grads shift their focus on the wrong thing and value illustration skills over actual problem solving and design thinking skills.

If a recent grad has a hard time finding a good internship or job, he or she immediately assumes it must be the sketching. This is also often cited as a reason for rejection as it is a quick one to identify.
In my experience, sketching is actually most of the time not it. Mostly, the projects just aren’t that good and presented badly. The story telling isn’t executed well and they lack thought and purpose.
The best illustration skills won’t gloss that over.
I’d never hire a great sketcher over a great thinker.

All that being said, of course a designer needs to develop ideas and communicate them effectively.
Sketching or rather illustrating is a tool to do this.
Different places do this differently. In the last few places I worked it was 2D Photoshop renderings together with basic CAD.
Hand sketching was very rarely shard or presented but often used during brainstorms.

So my advice for designers starting out would be to not think technically flawless and “hot” sketching skills will make up for thin project development.

I got no issues with the sketch journeys. But without any development or thought behind them other than a sketch exercise, I don’t feel like I can contrubute anything and I have a hard time getting interested.
So I leave that to others here that have more interest and skill in this.
It’s a little like watching an athlete in the gym working out one muscle.

This whole thread feels like more of a forum “hijack” than any of the sketch threads I’ve ever seen. The best way to kill the culture of a forum is to chastise people for starting relevant topics… in their relevant topic areas.

What does this statement even mean? How else does one improve their ability to communicate through sketching but sketch a bunch and seek feedback from others if their sketch is communicating their original intent?

There are so many ways to contribute to a community, this just feels salty and unconstructive.

Yes, same here, I get hooked on cool sketches. But that’s the problem I tried to point out. I think we are focused too much on cool sketches and justifying that by saying “that’s just the way it is”. That’s probably not the right answer to this matter. Traditionally sketching is great for complex surfaces and many different materials like sneakers or cars. So since everybody is pushing into the design sketching direction everything starts to look like cars or sneakers. Look around, razors, toothbrushes, power drills, you name it. It’s crazy. The choice of the medium has a big influence on the stylistic outcome. You could also iterate that razor ten times by model building or CAD prototyping. The outcome would be vastly different and just as valid.

Bepster really makes a few very good points. Always everybody assumes it’s the sketching that needs to be improved if a designer’s portfolio isn’t up to standard. I can’t remember the last time someone here on the boards told someone to up their model building skill.
So portfolios really get formulaic somehow: throw in some stock images and build some fake personas, add some pseudo bullshit “scientific” research and conclusions (98% of X want X), shower the viewer with hot sketches that are produced for the portfolio exclusively in 90% of the cases → praise

When we start to accept model building or CAD as an equally valid tool for idea communication and iteration and not see sketching as the one and only holy grail of the design profession I think the design community would greatly profit and gain a lot of great thinkers that are now swept under the rug because they don’t have crazy illustration skillz.

On a sidenote: I don’t think Dan actually has a problem with people starting sketch journeys and trying to improve their abillities. I took it as a slightly provocative opener to fuel a more meta discussion about the importance of sketching. So no reason to get hung up on this… unless I misunderstood that of course :wink:

Yes, same here, I get hooked on cool sketches. But that’s the problem I tried to point out. I think we are focused too much on cool sketches and justifying that by saying “that’s just the way it is”. That’s probably not the right answer to this matter. Traditionally sketching is great for complex surfaces and many different materials like sneakers or cars. So since everybody is pushing into the design sketching direction everything starts to look like cars or sneakers. Look around, razors, toothbrushes, power drills, you name it. It’s crazy. The choice of the medium has a big influence on the stylistic outcome. You could also iterate that razor ten times by model building or CAD prototyping. The outcome would be vastly different and just as valid.

Bepster really makes a few very good points. Always everybody assumes it’s the sketching that needs to be improved if a designer’s portfolio isn’t up to standard. I can’t remember the last time someone here on the boards told someone to up their model building skill.
So portfolios really get formulaic somehow: throw in some stock images and build some fake personas, add some pseudo bullshit “scientific” research and conclusions (98% of X want X), shower the viewer with hot sketches that are produced for the portfolio exclusively in 90% of the cases → praise

When we start to accept model building or CAD as a equally valid tool for idea communication and iteration and not see sketching as the one and only holy grail of the design profession I think the design community would greatly profit and gain a lot of great thinkers that are now swept under the rug because they don’t have crazy illustration skillz.

On a sidenote: I don’t think Dan actually has a problem with people starting sketch journey’s and trying to improve their abillities. I took it as a slight provocative opener to fuel a more meta discussion about the importance of sketching. So no reason to get hung up on this… unless I misunderstood that of course > :wink:

Exactly !!! Well said.
You did not misunderstand it.

While Dan’s exact phrasing may not have been ideal (that pesky communication thing, maybe he should have ripped a hot sketch), I disagree.

Dan is absolutely correct in that ID is not about a hot sketch. And is is also correct in his implication that if it is about a hot sketch, ID would then be a complete joke.

That said, if someone wants to do a sketching thread in the sketch forum, it seems to me that would be a perfect match. Dan is free to ignore those threads.

I think I have only commented once or twice in such a thread. Main reason being is that my advise would be the same - How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Yes, good sketches can be of bad designs.

Yes, good designs can be boring in sketches.

Yes, sketching is an essential skill.

No, 3D modeling is not an essential skill.

No, sketching is not the only essential skill, but is a means to an end.

No, there are not too many sketch journey threads.

Maybe, people who think good sketching is not is required don’t sketch well.

R