Get to sketching
Tips on sketching your way into an idea.
Sketching is something we are all capable of. If you’re skeptical or intimidated by taking up the pencil, here are a few tips on getting ideas out of your head and into your hands.
Build your own language
I sketch a lot of websites, so most of my experiments are a mix of images, text, and buttons. Whatever you’re working on, think of a way to visually reduce it to only 2 or 3 shapes or symbols that you use repeatedly. Ideally, these symbols are some type of box that you can adjust.
Less wrist, more elbow
Lots of people sketch using a zillion little lines until they have a prickly shape created. That’s a zillion decisions without a solid direction, and a zillion opportunities to get discouraged.
Instead, look where you want to go and make the mark in as few lines as possible. Keep a (mostly) still wrist, then use only your elbow and shoulder to draw. Who cares if shapes are crooked or misaligned. The more ambivalent you are about your marks, the quicker you will find them useful.
Avoid criticizing yourself
Ignore whatever internal voice tells you that your sketch “sucks” or that it’s “bad”. You are physically exploring a problem and that is all that matters. Ignore the criticism, especially from yourself.
Use huge paper
Personally, I love big sketch books, especially this beast from Moleskine. It doesn’t fit in any backpack known to humans. Out and about, I get a ton of comments about how huge it is. Typically I respond with something like, “I have a lot of bad ideas.”
Give yourself enough space to work through whatever it is you’re sketching. Maybe use all that extra room for notes or chop through a few “bad” ideas. Sometimes, interesting shit happens when you give your mind a chance to explore without doubt or judgement.
Start with a box
Don’t use the edges of your paper for the edges of an idea. Designate a separate space on the paper to sketch in. That will give you enough room to do multiple versions, or pepper in some questions or instructions to yourself.
Ignore whatever internal voice tells you that your sketch “sucks” or that it’s “bad”.
Avoid graph paper (optional)
I think graph paper is too rigid, unless you’re building something where you know the exact dimensions and need a sketch at scale. It’s a personal choice though. If it helps you to focus more on what you’re solving and less on the sketch itself, then I say go with graph paper.
Don’t overthink the book itself
Unless you’re a Pixar animator and can simultaneously create art while you doodle, try not to idealize or overthink the act of keeping sketches in a book. It can be fun to look back at old stuff and assign a lot of meaning to what you’re making. But… if you’re thinking about it the right way, you’ll eventually get used to moving past sketches you’re no longer tinkering with.
The only thing you need to start is paper, pencil, and a problem to solve. Whatever you’re building, whether it’s a plan or a website, sketching is a super gratifying way to get your mind going. Good luck!