CanUX: Why so much Sketching?

by November 18, 2008

At the CanUX 2008 conference in Banff several speakers outlined the benefits around quick collaborative sketching in the early stages of a product design process. Though the methodologies for sketching they shared were somewhat different, there was a good deal of convergence on the basics:

  • Use quick sketches in the early stages of a project
  • Ensure you do lots of sketches so many ideas come forward
  • Discuss and edit the sketches collaboratively
  • Build consensus and buy-in through this process

This got me to thinking about why there was so much interest in sketching. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that design teams have increasingly become involved in up-front problem solving and problem framing activities.

Previously design teams may have been confined to the later half of the product design process when it was time to make things “look good” and be “usable”. As a result, they would focus on solo activities like wire-framing and Photoshop design. While there’s still an important need for these skills, they don’t do a lot to get team buy-in in the early stages of a project.

Early on, idea generation and collaboration helps create alignment between diverse groups and stakeholders. Communicating lots of ideas quickly in an easily editable form (sketching) can help facilitate that process.