10.5 tips on how to sketch design ideas and systems.

You have to sketch to get ideas out of your head and onto paper. Lists of words can express ideas but they don’t always help others see what you intend to make/do. See my page on “Drawing for fun and profit” at Everythingiknow.co.uk to see how important I think drawing is.

Now let’s talk about HOW to sketch.

01.            Find your medium.

Is it pen, pencil, collage, Photoshop or a mixture of several media?

02.            Find your scale.

Small might work for you or maybe you need to explore a big piece of paper. You can always do lots of drawings on one big sheet; experiment!

03.            Don’t be precious.

You are not Da Vinci and no one expects you to be. It’s about recording ideas and explaining others, not making fine art.

04.            Draw the context.

Show how the object fits in a hand or fits into a bag. Who uses it?Where is it? Why not try collage; it can really help here. Start of with a photo of a place or setting and draw in your product or service.

05.            Draw the system.

If you are trying to draw the system for a service or installation then sketch out the component parts and their relationship to each other. Do it really simply. A projector can be a square with lines coming out of it. A text message could be words and dotted lines going through the air.

06.            Draw the form.

If you need to refine the product form, draw it. Start sketching it roughly and do many drawings until you can get to the ideal form. Sometimes your eye and hand will refine the shape while you draw and help you find that ideal form Doing this in conjunction with making models can be even more benificial.

07.            Show your drawings to others.

Do they understand what the drawings show? Do they have suggestions? Don’t be scared.

08.            Do bad Photoshop.

A great way to get images together. By bad Photoshop I mean don’t worry about trying to make things look flawless and subtle. Treat it like cutting out images from magazines, not like airbrushing fantasy art. If two different coloured images look odd together then make the image greyscale; this can make it less jarring.

09.            Tracing is good.

You can trace over images either with tracing paper or in Photoshop. If you create a collage you can then draw over it to give it back a sketched look rather than a photographic one. When tracing don’t just trace the outlines, catch those shadows too.

10.            Cut and paste.

Drawings should be fluid things: scan them, copy them, and cut them up. Why draw something 20 times when you can copy it (photocopy or Photoshop)? Build complex drawings from simple beginnings.

10.5            When starting a new sketchbook.

Sketchbooks are essential.You should always keep one and not just write lists in it. Starting a new one is worse that having just a blank piece of paper in front of you; so start at page six. It’s like making pancakes, the first one always ends up in the bin. So don’t risk a crap drawing on page one of a new sketchbook, start a bit in and go back when you feel confident.

It's a fish, it's a lamp, it's a...sketch! © 2006

Rory Hamilton 2006


Phone content sketchbook made with custom rubber stamp. © 2006

My new "Back of envelope" sketchbook (in development) © 2006

With stamps, collage etc. © 2006

Notes, sketches and collage in a "Back of envelope" sketchbook © 2006

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