Sonal Shah

6 methods to improve sketching skills in user experience

By the way, if the first phrase that came to your mind after reading the title is remotely close to- ‘I can’t sketch’, then my friend, this is for you. You might know all the technical stuff, you might have all the Illustrator, Photoshop or Sketch experience to speak at length about your designing skills. But, I hope this makes you happy, the real and deep understanding of the visual and psychological principles of design is known by how you sketch. Sketching is something that makes you better with every attempt. Sketching, as we know it, is a long and slow process. But, in designing user interactions, it is considered fast & rewarding because it is the fastest way to express your ideas.
But the most common concern that designers face is the hesitation to sketch as they feel they can illustrate their ideas better on a software.
Have you ever felt that your UI sketches aren’t good enough to show to potential users?
This hesitation is a part of the belief that sketching is a rough draft and it shows no great details.

I can understand. Been there, done that.
It’s happened to all of us. My first sketch wasn’t perfect. My first sketch was a haphazard scribbling of my ideas. But the vulnerability was empowering. I could see a lot of scope for improvement.

I started sketching whatever came to my mind because it helped me in putting my ideas to paper. Using sketching techniques have helped me in making better sketches. The purpose of writing this blog is to make other designers aware of the benefits of sketching. I often see my colleagues putting off sketching as an option because they think they can’t sketch.

If you are an entry-level designer, it’s all the more important for you to understand why and how you need to work more with sketches.

Earlier this month I read Sketching User Experiences and in this blog, I am going to talk about what I have learned from the book (and my experiences)-
1. How sketching can be helpful while doing user experience design and how you can make your sketches better and descriptive
2. Methods to adopt if you are not good at sketching

So how sketching can be helpful and why we should start sketching our ideas in user experience process?

Sketching user experience

In a gist, the two big reasons are-
1. It aids you in thinking more openly and creatively
2. It helps you in creating abundant of ideas without worrying about their quality

When we start sketching, we are emptying our mind by creating our ideas on paper, so we should not worry about our good or bad ideas. We must start with creating five ideas while doing ideation on any project and then make their better versions; instead of making one idea and making its better version.

“If you do not empty your mind how will you be able to pour more ideas?”
-a quote I read on Medium

It’s like if you do not empty filled glass how will you able to pour it again). So just scribble your ideas on paper so more & more ideas can be generated.

Methods to start sketching (for beginners)-

A. Scribble sketches

Scribbling is often associated with negative habits: it’s childish, it’s messy or considered purpose-less. But, I can tell you that scribbling is one of the best ways to improve your sketching skills. Here are some of the methods that you can try-

1. If you are a noob, start with whatever you see on your screen. Set a time of 40 seconds and start scribbling on paper.

2. After you are able to copy whatever you see on your screen, start scribbling while something is going on to capture the ideas. For example, start youtube and while watching a video, try to capture ideas and scribble just an essence of what you are watching.

Scribbling sketching

3. Repeat what you did in the previous point, but this time don’t look into your sketchbook. This will help you in capturing ideas instantly and fast. For example, carry your sketchbook with you if you are going to watch a movie. Start scribbling whenever you get some idea. But don’t see what you’re scribbling in the sketchbook. This method needs practice but once you form a habit, this will work amazingly well.

B. Sketch what you see

This method will help you to command your pencil strokes and detailing.
1. Try to draw what you see rather than drawing what you imagined.
Sketch any object that you see. Keep an image in front of you and just sketch it on paper. Drawing what you see helps you master your strokes.

2. This is a technique that will help you draw what you see
Keep the reference image that you are drawing in the inverted position so that your mind can not imagine what the object is. This way your mind will be fully dependent on what you see and you will only be able to draw those lines.

C. Sketching Vocabulary

While working on sketches there are many shapes which we use repeatedly and if we practice those shapes it will help in making our sketches better and more detailed.

 

 

 

D. Photo Tracing

Photo tracing is a method in which you can capture the real world images into your sketches.
For example, if you want to draw a hand pointing somewhere, just click your hand in that position and open that into your system. Now you can draw an outline of your hand and can use it in your sketches or wireframes.
Similarly, if you want to draw laptop, just click your laptop in that position and open that into your system. Now you can draw an outline of laptop and can use it in your wireframes.

E. Hybrid Sketches: Combining photos with sketching

Hybrid sketching is used by designers to show the surrounding environment.This method does not need any artistic skills.
Combining photos and sketching will add details to your ideas without the need for any artistic skills. The idea is that the photo preserves the information about the context. Here, particular interaction takes place and the sketched element and annotations add information about the how actual design fits in that context.

F. Drawing annotations and notes

While making storyboarding or sketching wireframes, adding annotations and notes will make a better understanding of your story. Annotations are the names, labels and explanatory notes to part of your sketches. Adding annotations will help the user to know about that particular part of your sketch. Other times, arrows, lines, braces also help in representing a particular annotation with that sketch.


I have applied these techniques and they have helped me enormously in improving my sketches. So I can vouch for them. I just hope you realize the importance of sketching in user experience and apply these methods while sketching.

Feel free to drop your comments below.