The Messy-but-Pretty-Art of UX Sketching

Peiter Buick wrote a great article on The Messy Art of UX Sketching and, although he stresses the importance of how UX sketches should be designed, one shouldn’t be afraid to sketch their ideas (even if their sketches aren’t final drawings). The definition of sketch /skeCH/ is a rough drawing or painting, often to assist in making a more finished picture. In the context of product development and working to craft great user experiences sketching helps to aid in telling a visual story and/or communicating any interactions with the product or system.

  • Sketching is an expression of thinking and problem-solving.
  • It’s a form of visual communication but, as in all languages, some ways of communicating are clearer than others.
  • Sketching is a skill: the more you do it, the better you’ll become at it.

When evaluating your sketches ask yourself, “How could I better communicate these thoughts?” Getting caught up in evaluating your drawing ability is easy, but try to separate the two. Look at your sketch as if it were a poster. What’s the first thing that’s read? Where is the detailed info? Remember, the eye is drawn to the area with the most detail and contrast.

Just as one’s ability to enunciate words affects how well others understand them, one’s ability to draw does have an impact on how communicative a sketch is. The good news is that drawing and sketching are skills, and the more you do them, the better you’ll get.

Within the post Peiter briefly mentions how sketches are in “constant state of flux”, but then goes in detail on how to craft great layered sketches with the video below:

Again, I’m not saying that this is a wrong approach. If you are working for a creative agency, it makes absolute sense to want to better perfect your sketches — since they are an integral part of the process and may be used to support your design decisions. But if you’re not, the emphasis shouldn’t be on producing great sketches or mockups. Rather,  lose the idea of crafting the deliverables and focus on sketching in sprints (#4). Losing the ‘deliverables’ isn’t just for startups or small businesses either, it will work for teams within large businesses too.

Having the skill-set to draw or sketch beautiful imagery isn’t needed. Sketches are there as a visual aid for your thoughts translated to paper. Remember to not waste time focusing on perfectly straight lines and color palettes that may not be utilized. If it isn’t being billed, then the time on sketches should be more concerned with the flow and process and shouldn’t be emphasized on its design.

Did I miss anything? Or do you agree with the idea of  improving the skill set to craft better sketches no matter what?

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One thought on “The Messy-but-Pretty-Art of UX Sketching

  • I agree with what you’re saying. Free sketching, without guidelines or methodologies, opens the mind to dump its thoughts. After the vision and strategy is clear, tools like Axure, Omnigraffle, etc., can quickly refine those sketches for client purposes.

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