what makes a good sketch?

There’s a big difference between drawing to solve problems to arrive at a solution quickly and drawing to sell an idea.

i agree, but if

Unfortunately, too many people only pay attention the idea selling drawings, therefore too many design crits turn into illustration crits.

and

and its an art even for the onlooker(designer) to be able to guess between the two situations…

is true, how do you learn to tell or know the difference?

so it can probably get more complicated or easier for the designer to do sketches depending on the project and its purpose.

well does that change the way you evaluate the designer’s ability?

do these ??s make sense?

thanks for the answers/responses, gives me a different perspective…

The quick ugly scribbles are for thinking to yourself for general ideas or while talking to someone on the spot about something already in progress. You both have it in your head, some details just have to be described with a quick picture to capture it instead of just hand waving which everyone will forget. Kind of like shorthand or quick note-taking, just good enough for you to be able to think of what the person is talking about, may not be completely spelled out though. Proportions, good ellipses, and perspective mean very little with these. The idea is to get the idea out of your head in the quickest visual manner. 10-20 seconds is enough.

Take it up a level when you’re going to hand the sketch off to your computer person. Proportions should be somewhat accurate, they’ll be relying more on your sketch to give them info they need to model it. Whether something is actually flat or a curve should be represented. You should be able to see from the drawings that the radius on one corner is supposed to be a lot bigger than the other one, details like that. Dead accurate ellipses and perspective still are not that necessary unless the lack of it confuses the information. They shouldn’t confuse your circle in perspective for an oval. Line quality still means nothing here. Drawings should show form, details, and proportions as the most important thing. They should still be quick, but slow it down a little to make the straight line straight enough to not get confused with a gradual arc, and make sure lines relate to each other. If a line is supposed to be halfway down, make sure it’s not only 1/3 down, those distinctive design decisions should be clear.

Move it up even more if the clients (think non-designers) are going to see the sketches. There you have to be more accurate. It should explain itself / be read easily without you having to explain it. This is when your perspective should be right, ellipses good enough to not be distractingly wrong, etc. Non-designers are looking at it, it needs to look like what it looks like. if your “straight” line has a dip in it they’ll tell you that dip will hold rain water and rust their part, etc… If a corner is to be sharp, it should be. They’ll be looking at the drawing more literally so it needs to be clean. You can probably still get away with a little slop because most of us draw with our bad hand better than non-artists so as long as it reads correctly and looks good, it’s good.

If you’re selling to other designers, a clients design staff, etc… presentation renderings, you have to be on your best foot. Usually for stuff real polished, I’ll then switch to Illustrator. Use the computer for what it’s good at, straight lines. If you’re going to scan and trace, you don’t need to fuss over proper line quality perfect ellipses, etc with the hand sketches. You’ll be re-drawing it anyway in the program even if it was “perfect” by hand first so don’t waste time duplicating efforts. If you’re going to photoshop render, make sure those illustrator lines are tight, especially where one curve changes to another one, work out the kinks in those lines. The better your linework there, the better the photoshop rendering.

Hope this long-winded explanation helped some. Granted these are just my views / process, they’ll work for giving you the best roi.

Quick summary
1st level: Just enough to get the general idea out of your head. Only enough to show the dif between square + circle, tall or short. You’ll still be talking at this level. Under 1 minute sketches.
2nd level: Enough to show design considerations, details, mechanical / engineering concerns. Where things line up, proportions, locations, corner or radius, flat or round, etc. You’ll still be talking at this level too, may still be sketching on the fly or standing over shoulder of modeller/engineer making on the spot decisions. 1-3 minute sketches on the fly, 5-10 min. sketches for a handoff.
3rd level: Pretty accurate representation. Should speak for itself without you having to explain it. Should thoroughly get the ideas across. May still need to talk for things like potential finishes, etc. 10-30 min. depending on how complicated.
4th level: Deadly accurate rep. Showoff. Needs to sell the idea, and impress. Everything needs to be as accurate as you can get. Some will do with drawing programs, others with 3-d modeling, etc…whatever works the best with what’s in your budget and skill levels.

thanks a lot skinny!

do you think that these 4 “levels” should be represented in one’s portfolio?

absolutely.

Below is a list an instructor (Joel Bacus for you CIA guys) gave me that I still keep on my desk to this day (Thanks Joel <we called him Boba Fett cause he would kick your ass but was still cool)

What makes a good sketch:

1 Line quality, thicks and thins

2 Contrast, Light to Dark, “Does it Read?”

3 Proportion, Rational scaling of elements. “Does your city car look like a luxury car?”

4 Perspective, Ellipses. “Are you honestly constructing the design by drawing through the form?”

5 Volume, Consistent output for the individual’s ability. “Are you giving it 110%”

6 Content, One concise theme, not several designs on one sketch.“Are there other features that could e incorporated into your design”

7 Variety, no two designs are the same. “Are you investigating all of the options?”

8 Harmony, Design is cohesive.

9 Clarity, Design derection is obvious. “Are the elements you spoke of on the skecht and do they look correct?”

10 Flair, Control and liberties taken that creates interest for the viewer. “Hey, can I see that again?”

I would have changed a few things, but as an homage to the Bacus, I left it as is.

nice list, thanx.

I would have changed a few things

what things and why?

Mainly the order of things: I would have put content as #1, afterall the whole point of a sketch is to communicate something using a visual language.

I would have kept flair last the way it is, flair is like icing on the cake, you need to make the cake first.

Looking back at it, it is pretty good as is other than that.

content is a nice fit at the top of the list…

thanks yo

If someone has a good sketch with born, I want to say he is lucky, but, of course, such people is still very little. So what I want to say is that if you want to have a good sketch the only and the most important ting is doing more exercise. From beginning with copying some good work, then forming your own charactor, accomplishing your word only belong to you. Whatever you want to do, just do it with your intelligent and you will win.

For this reason I still wonder why people use graphic software and/or electronic tablets. Hand sketches (with eventually some color applied) are more economic and for deadly accurate representations there’s CAD. But I suppose I’m wrong regarding the amount of people using these tools, so please explain me… I’ve the same question concerning the bleeding and expensive markers actually…

Boy, you’ve been digging through the boards eh? This was a good topic. Ironically I was going through some papers on my desk this morning (precrastinating on straightening up before company comes over tonight) and I uncoverd that Joel Baccus list in a pile on my desk… it still holds up, but I wouldbut I would reorder it like this:


1 Content, One concise theme, not several designs on one sketch.“Are there other features that could e incorporated into your design”

2 Harmony, Design is cohesive.

3 Proportion, Rational scaling of elements. “Does your city car look like a luxury car?”

4 Clarity, Design derection is obvious. “Are the elements you spoke of on the skecht and do they look correct?”

5 Perspective, Ellipses. “Are you honestly constructing the design by drawing through the form?”

6 Line quality, thicks and thins

7 Contrast, Light to Dark, “Does it Read?”

8 Volume, Consistent output for the individual’s ability. “Are you giving it 110%”

8 Variety, no two designs are the same. “Are you investigating all of the options?”

10 Flair, Control and liberties taken that creates interest for the viewer. “Hey, can I see that again?”


to answer you post though, I don’t think the medium matters, it is about communicating your ideas thrououghly and efficiently, how you do it is up to you (or if you work somewhere with an accepted hous style, up to them)

I agree that there can be levels of drawing that are can be used for different purposes - in the companies I’ve been with, I’ve put together binders showing the ‘levels of drawings’ to help communicate internally to cross-disciplinary teams either what they need for ideas from the design team, or to show clients who ask for some concepts as to what they need level-wise.

But, I would argue a point about the ‘internal’ vs. ‘external’ drawings discussion point. I’ve been doing this for a long time and 2 things have rung true for me in design drawing;

1 - It’s a waste to draw something twice (i.e., using a pencil underlay, and then trace over with pen, or drawing a concept for yourself, finding it’s a good idea, and needing to do it again, nicer, for a client review) Get good at using the desired end media first so you can draw the idea and move onto the next

2 - Every sketch should to be presentable (understandable, clear, concise) - to almost anyone. Sometimes you don’t have a chance to draw some idea you doodled over again in time to show the client a better version of it. Get good at drawing your concepts well enough the first time so you don’t have to draw them again later. This saves time/effort and gives you either more time to go deeper into the design or make more money!

  • mid-westerner +

Yo;

In looking at your list, I’d personally move the item about ellipses and ‘correct’ geometry after the the item on ‘proportion’.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen good ideas die or become confusing because someone didn’t take the time to make sure an ellipse or other geometry bit (but especially ellipses) was right. It’s makes the sketch look ‘off’.

Maybe I’m an ellipse snob, but seeing that kind of faux pas blows a sketch for me quicker than anything (except the first 4-5 things you listed).

  • mid-westerner +

Thanks for the replies, I love digging. But I still don’t understand how graphic software and/or electronic tablets can be more efficient than hand drawing… It’s like east coaster said “Get good at using the desired end media first so you can draw the idea and move onto the next.”. So; prove me I’m wrong and I’ll use some of my precious time to master it. :wink:

Then my second question; What makes markers so good compared to other rendering-tools? Or is it tradition?

I don’t quite understand, you don’t use a tablet and you don’t use markers?

Many people have gotten just as fast with a tablet as by hand, and you don’t have to spend time scanning 30 sketches to email to a client. It’s convienient to go all digital. Personally, I like the feel of paper, but sometimes I work digitally. I like to mix up mediums… as I said before, it doesn’t really matter, the end justifies the means here.

Eastcoaster, you make a great point, every drawing should be presentable, but when I think back to 10 years ago when I was just getting out of school, that would have been very intimidating. At that level, sometimes you have to sketch it out multiple times just to sort the idea out for yourself, and then get the perspective right, and then clean it all up. Getting it out right the first time is the goal to work toward (maximum billing).

I did use markers at school, but the results were never as good as with pencils for example…
You’re correct about the scanning thing and probably there are some more advantages. So once I have the ability to buy one I might consider a combination with paper, but so far I don’t feel the time pressure that much. :slight_smile:
What do you think about retouching sketches in graphic software by the way?

I posted this in another topic What steps to take to one day be a footwear designer? but I think it works here:

I think it helps to:

  1. bench mark sketches you like

  2. think of products in their “ideal” state. Sketch them as they should/could be more than how they are

  3. “sketch don’t draw” as my first director would always tell me

  4. remember the sketch/render is a means to an end, not the final product. It’s purpose is to communicate. You are a designer of the final product, not the drawing.

What makes a good designer sketch:

  1. Communicates your intentions in the most efficient possible way
  2. motivates people to take action, improving the world in some way
  3. spawns creativity, leading to even better solutions

This is very different that what makes a good artist sketch.

5
hahahaha…