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The importance of sketching in UX and beyond

I’m sure you’ve encountered many posts about which tool is best for wireframing. Yet, one of UX designers’ most important and basic tool is sketching.

If you know how to convey your ideas and concepts through sketches, the rest follows.

Unless you were hired to create a UX team from scratch, chances are you’ll have to adapt to use whatever software your company is using: Axure, Adobe, Figma, Sketch and so on. The one skill you’ll have to develop is the willingness to put as many ideas as possible on paper, and leave behind the ones that don’t work.

Up until recently, drawing — or even writing something on a whiteboard — terrified me. I’m very self-conscious about my bad writing, and being left-handed often led me to present smudges to people.

An article from the Interaction Design Foundation convinced me to get over my fears and start sketching, even in my day-to-day life.

Jose Rojas, the article’s author, highlights the advantages and methods of sketching. However, what struck me most was the following advice:

As a designer, you will find it’s a great idea to make a habit of always carrying a notebook to keep a record of objects, designs and actions that provoke or inspire you.

Jose Rojas

It can be a notebook, your phone’s camera, or both. Observing and recording our surroundings helps us develop a critical eye.

Read the article

Start sketching

You don’t need to be an artist to sketch effectively but there are a few techniques you should learn. If you, like me, need to have visual cues and some explaination, Matt Corrall’s video helps greatly.

I used Matt’s advice to refine storyboard and wireframes for the Acclimatize.me case study, and I’m happy with the result.

Go beyond

Whether you’re a UX designer or not, learning how to sketch can benefit you in many ways.

[…] I believe drawing is a skill, which means that it’s something obtainable. Anyone can pick it up, learn, improve and eventually become great at it.

José Torre

The secret is repetition, says José Torre. You just need to get started. In the article he explains why, when, what and how to start drawing today.

José also suggests you can use drawings to illustrate your ideas in presentations as well.

He reminded me of the insightful and delightful webinar by UX designer Morgane PengHow to Deal with People Who Don’t “Get” Design. Her illustrations complement perfectly her message while making the talk enjoyable and fun.

Read the article


If you wish to take it to next level, Dr. Betty Edwards’ New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain workbook offers effective exercises that reinforce the five basic skills of drawing:

  • The perception of edges.
  • The perception of spaces.
  • The perception of relationships.
  • The perception of lights and shadows.
  • The perception of the Gestalt.

The workbook is the ideal companion of the book, where the theory behind the techniques is explained. Although, I went directly for the exercises.

Update

As much as wanted to follow my own advice and sketch every day, I couldn’t follow my own advice: I’d stare at the blank page, not knowing what to draw, and then give up.

After reading an article, I started a new journey and wrote about it on the post Learning to draw: a journey.

⚡️Inspiration archive

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By Silvia Maggi

I'm a UX Designer based in Italy. I strive to create meaningful, user-centric experiences. On my blog, I write about about design, tech, their implications in our lives and the occasional photography work.

4 replies on “The importance of sketching in UX and beyond”

Glad this article could help, Mel! I definitively would want to see your app when you have something ready – and, of course, I’m available for feedback 🙂

This is really interesting Silvia, and actually very helpful. When imagining pictures I’d like to make I know that sketching them would help, but I’m so hopeless at drawing that I put it off. I’m going to delve into these resources. Xx

Vanessa, that’s a very interesting point. You reminded me that I did the same. I wonder whether this will change once I’ll feel more confident in drawing. You might find Matt Corrall’s second video useful for this (it’s mentioned in the one embedded in my post): he shows how it’s okay to use reference pictures and how to use colour. Hope it helps! xx

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