Drawing

The value of drawing in the design process

My early memories of a child involved drawing, and a lot of it. Sometimes it was on the walls of our 800 square foot house, but as a (mostly) good kid, most of the drawings were on paper. I went on to have some amazing teachers and mentors throughout high school and college, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting.

Many years later, now working as a UX Designer, I still begin most projects by making drawings—for many reasons:

  • Discover
  • Plan
  • Refine
  • Execute
My major was in painting. Before I would work on something I would do quick storyboards to validate my idea
My major was in painting. Before I would work on something I would do quick storyboards to validate my idea

Drawing immediately makes your idea imperfect (and that is a good thing)

This is rule #11 from Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling. Once you see imperfections in your ideas, you can start refining and moving the idea forward. I often do morning sketches about an app idea and try to go as fast as possible—no refining. Here is an example below of a pet app I drafted up one morning while having coffee in Barcelona (if you're wondering why it says "ochata" on the top).

IMG_8942

Drawing forces you to think of the overall concept

I often see designers start in Photoshop and begin designing pixel-perfect comps. Often, they get stuck and re-work their project because they get trapped at a problem to the screen. They were busy polishing the door handle before the building was constructed. It starts with foundation. When you draw it gives you a sense of detachment from your work. It is quick, and you will be more comfortable with re-working since you didn't spend much time on it.

An email design I did for Adrian Grenier. There were no wireframes. We went from this sketch to the design because the vision was so clear.
An email design I did for Adrian Grenier. There were no wireframes. We went from this sketch to the design because the vision was so clear.

Drawing helps you connect the dots

Once I sketch out the overall idea of the product, I start working on individual screens. The beauty of drawing is you can spend as much or as little time as you would like with it. At times I will do very high fidelity sketches and other times they might just be a few lines to remind me of a layout.

drawing_final
This is an example of the sketches I did for Style Lend. Once I laid out the screen with the client I started working on the interface.

There are also occasions where I will draw the goal of the app as opposed to the interface itself. Below is an example of a use case I drew using the Paper iPad app by 53 Studios. This drawing is for me to articulate the idea with my team and serve as a reminder of the goal we are attempting to achieve.

sketch

Drawing is for everyone

The worst excuse I hear from people is "I can't draw." What people usually mean by that is they mean they cannot draw well. The drawing process doesn't require you to be a proficient draftsman (although it helps) to find value in it. It is easy to get better at drawing—just do a lot of it. It is merely observation and execution with your hand and eye working in harmony.

Drawing taught me how to observe, plan, and refine—a process anyone can use in whatever they do. If you do not do it already, I highly encourage you to pick up a sketchbook and start planning your ideas on paper.