Too Many Sketch Journeys

Sketch Monkey, CAD Jockey, Design Thinker.
I think a new grad should be proficient in all 3 areas (again, over generalizing the profession and skills).
However, for a new grad or intern we like to select people who have a strong skill in ideation and concept refinement. We feel that a Senior guy can be more efficient doing the final 3D Model and the Senior team can guide the problem solving process better. The new grad can improve and learn these two skills on the job and with years of experience. Ideation/sketching (not hot sketching) is an absolute skill for me.

Depending on the product, I don’t think you can 3D model the same amount of exploration you could do by sketching. If they are not expert 3D modelers then their concepts will be mediocre at best.

So where can all the recent grads without any 3D modeling skills apply for that job? :unamused:
That’s something you can claim once you are so high up the food chain that you don’t have to bother learning/doing it anymore. Which dosn’t apply to the vast majority of industrial designers.

Depending on the product, I don’t think you can 3D model the same amount of exploration you could do by sketching

“depending on the product” is the important part here. When I have to work on something very mechanical like a clip or a clasp I prefere developing it in CAD directely. There I can see much better if it will work or not, adding in tolerances and material thickness. If I have to design a fountain pen I’ll just whip up my models in CAD and 3D print them to try them out. That’s probably even faster than neatly drawing them - and seriously, who the hell wants to look at a drawing of a pen? If I need to design a handle for something I go into the shop and butcher blocks of foam until I find a few good solutions. What are sketches of handels good for? If I have to design a car I certainly will sketch it. It’s by far the most economical solution.
So each specific problem can have several ways of resolving them. And sketching certainly isn’t the ultimate answer to everything.

Soooooo, then I guess people who think 3D modelling is not an essential skill probably don’t model well? :wink:

Yes, depending on the product. Mrog, all your examples are valid uses of 3D CAD and physical models vs sketches. But we have done sketches of handles first as well, usually those quick sketches allow the designer to go into the shop with an idea of what they want to prototype and test.

If we are designing a new airplane seat I can’t afford to send a new grad to the shop and make me a few prototypes. Neither would it be efficient for them to 3D model a few unrefined concepts. Usually we start with understanding the components, hard points, maybe making templates in 3D CAD but after that it’s dozens and dozes of sketches of cushions, backrests, armrests, fine details, and then refining those sketches and bringing them all together into a few cohesive concepts that we can present to the client.

If its an organic form and ergonomics are not absolutely crucial, then sketching is the key.
If its an ergonomic product or a very geometric product where materials and finish are crucial then 3D models and renderings are valid and sometimes preferred.
It all the depends on the project.

Designers have always sketched. They didn’t have 3D CAD 50 years ago and yet ID existed. I don’t see 3D CAD in many areas of design including my own, footwear. Not much in transportation design either to my knowledge.

If you can do a tech drawing in 2d with sections using a pencil and ruler, you are just as capable a designer as one using CAD. it’s a means to an end. Thinking otherwise it what gets you to be a CAD monkey.


Ugh, what a non-argument that is. They also built planes, cars and sattelites 50 years ago without having computers. Because they didn’t had any! They sure as hell would have used them if they could have. Come on, man! :unamused:

Oh yeah, you can make a technical drawing with a pencil and a ruler instead of using CAD… sure. You can also grow your own crops to bake bread or take a horse to work.

The importance of CAD will only grow more and play a vital part in ID today and in the future, thanks to rapid prototyping methods going down in cost exponentially. If someone is seriously denying that I guess he/she is a sketch monkey :wink:

I’m not saying CAD isn’t relevant or important.

It’s just a tool. Like a pencil. Don’t be a tool, use them where appropriate.


Slightly provocative? Come on guys there’s nothing slightly provocative with yelling in all caps “TOO MUCH” in your opening statement.

Dan, all you’ve generated to get is another “Is Sketching even worth it” pissing contest and there are dozens of those threads already. You haven’t accomplished your goal of encouraging young designers to build out other skillsets, at best you’ve discouraged a couple from posting work (sketch or otherwise), and given the forum regulars another opportunity to say if they like pencil or pixel.

Here’s 3 ideas that took me 5 mins to think up that would be a productive way to accomplish the same goal:

  1. Link up with Product Tank (he’s been making excellent videos on the ID process) suggest that you and him host a “One Weekend Challenge” that puts a spin on the “One Hour Design Challenge” . Participants have one weekend (48 hours) to try to solve a problem around the house by making as many iterative prototypes as possible. Winner gets a shout-out on the main Blog documenting their winning process.

  2. Dan, since you have such a long history of working in the industry, take 1 hour to compile some interesting old work process that shows young designers all the other ways someone can go about solving a problem. Start a thread, post some old process, encourage other seasoned vets to do the same. Show them what possible through tangible real world examples.

  3. Pick a simple problem that interests you. Spend a couple months working on it in your spare time. Post up a thread documenting your process. Inspire other designers to build a more rounded skill set.

As a young designer (fresh graduate) I would really enjoy seeing how a more senior designer went about a simple design project. I’ve done industry work already in a small consultancy and so never really got much of a chance to work alongside a senior designer for a prolonged amount of time.

I think this could be a very good thread!

Can’t wait!! :slight_smile:

Too many sketch journeys? Where? In the ‘sketching’ forum?

I’m only a humble first year design student, but it’s apparent to me that the skill of sketching is THE most important to develop for ideation, communication and presentation. Regardless of the intended outcome, the ability to put lines and colour down on paper (or tablet) accurately and efficiently is of great value. I have it on good advice that ‘drawers’ have an infinitely higher change for employment in this field.

I’ve gotten a great deal of inspiration and motivation from both the students posting their work on this website and the professionals volunteering their feedback. A whole hearted thank you to you all for this amazing resource. Responding to this thread was my motivation to sign up. Sketching is something I also need to improve upon and I would love to get advice on this endeavour soon.

Granted, there may be an argument to start a sub forum solely for documenting personal development.

If I begin a sketch journey thread myself, people with issues on the subject are welcome not to view it.

And, I third the request for Dan to present something more constructive in support of the community.


Welcome to the boards Luke!

I’ve been trying to stay out of this thread, but I think this illustrates what some of the designers “against” sketching were trying to get at.

I’m a mechanical designer, but I’d say that about 80% of my duties overlap with industrial design. When I was in school, I was really worried about my sketching ability and spent a lot of time working on improving, even though I’m still behind most industrial designers (and probably should start a sketching thread). Now, I’m glad I did practice, because it allows me to better communicate, but saying it is THE most important misleads young designers I think.

I was browsing a sketching thread recently and saw Yo suggest to a poster to ease up on just doing exercises and work on practising in the context of real objects, and I would draw the parallel to real life. Your sketching should serve your designs, so do practice and improve, but ultimately the skill that you should be focused on above all else is “designing”.

That said, definitely start a sketch journey. Looking forward to seeing your work.

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your insight and experience.

A take home message from this thread is to type in caps wisely :slight_smile:

Perhaps differing definitions of what ‘sketching’ is and what it’s for underlie these debates. I do realise that it’s far more than making pretty pictures for the sake of it. I’m seeing the visual exploration of form and function and for problem solving, both technical and aesthetic. Design sketching is definitely outcome driven but, while it’s not art, surely it is advantageous for it to look ‘good’.

I may have been misled, but the importance of sketching does seem to outweigh things like cad design and hand modelling in the multi-discipline skill-set I’m being taught. My studies may not reflect the reality of working in the industry however, as people have suggested, so I’ll keep that in mind.

Also, I’m thinking it might be a personal thing; about how an individual designer best thinks, experiments and communicates. One of my lecturers admitted up front that, because of his limitations as a drawer, he focused heavily on physical modelling and prototyping skills in his decades of professional work. So I suppose people can either aim to play on their strengths, strengthen their weaknesses or just do what the job requires.

I’ve committed to a personal ‘sketch journey’ but, given the person I am, it may be counter productive to put my work out there for public criticism. A few nuggets I’ve since come across in these forums; “Think of a whole set of sketches that you never have to show anyone. Drawing for an audience puts expectations that hinder your freedom to experiment and explore.” And, “…your first 1000 sketches will be crap.” I’m really only at THAT stage right now.

Regardless, I appreciate any advice and support.