Sketch thinking, narrative UX & chatbot design Q&A with Jose Berengueres

Jose Berengueres, author of Sketch Thinking, talks sketching your emotions, visual thinking and designing conversation loops for chatbots

With chatbots’ rising popularity and the opening of new opportunities to interact with customers, chatbots can now help you overturn parking tickets, become your personal stylist and act as financial consultants.

The growing chatbot trend is showing no signs of slowing down as big players such as Google, Amazon and Apple capitalize on the UX trend with their very own versions. In the future will all our online interactions be with chatbots?

This trend has pushed narrative UX to the fore, pulling language out of the shadows and giving it a much needed revival in the world of UX design.

In our Q&A, author of Sketch Thinking Jose Berengueres shares his thoughts on the importance of sketching, chatbots, narrative UX, and design thinking. Sketch thinking is brainstorming enhanced. It’s using images to convey ideas. Berengueres’ book gives readers a sketching vocabulary and aims to help people in design thinking workshops.

Hi Jose! Before we start, could you briefly tell us about yourself and your area of expertise?

I am a Kaggle competitions master and professor in the Computer Science Department at the federal University of United Arab Emirates where I teach Design Thinking, entrepreneurship crash courses and Computer Science. Our lab research is about robots and human computer interaction. We actively collaborate with industry and startups worldwide regarding applied data science.

You have an insightful book, Sketch Thinking, which guides people to pick up the pencil and sketch their ideas. In your view, how important is sketching in the design process?

We started the sketch thinking workshops as a tool to enable engineers to communicate emotion. The idea came after a workshop at Apple in 2015.

We realized that STEM grads are usually taught technical drawing skills but are never taught how to sketch emotions. This hinders communication and what we call the group IQ.

What are the benefits of prototyping with sketches as your foundation?

As a kid I grew up with an MSX computer and later I moved to Tokyo. While in Japan, I realized that the Japanese are very at ease sketching to communicate ideas in business settings. Whereas in the West, the only businessman famous for his penchant for whiteboarding was perhaps Steve Jobs.

By training or by nature, every one of us has a “preferred mode of thinking”: some people like myself are visual, others prefer to listen (audio oriented), a third group prefers to talk aloud to process thoughts (verbal), a fourth group prefers write thoughts into words to function (writing) and a fifth group understand ideas best when they read them as words.

These are known as the five modes of thinking and each of us excels at one of the modes. Steve Jobs was audio oriented and that is why iTunes was so good. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a famous reader oriented person (Kindle).

However, as a visual person I feel that the business world has been “hijacked” by word-oriented thinking. And that is what I loved about Japan, that it is okay to use sketches even at a board meeting. Fortunately, recent works by visual thinking advocates such as Dan Roam (Napkin), Alex Osterwalder (The Business Canvas), and Mike Rohdes (Sketchnoting) have very explicitly shown the benefits of visual thinking.

Similarly, since Apple became the most valuable company in the world, we have that other companies (such as SAP, IBM) have started paying more attention to the UX of their products.

The UX department is probably the only “safe haven” for visual thinkers in today’s corporate mayhem. There are many visual thinkers out there locked in word-only offices who could be happier by getting permission to sketch. And every time the communication of an employee improves, the IQ of the company increases.

Continue reading more of Jose’s answers on our blog here.