Sketching and Writing: Not an end but a means to an end

Original story: March 2016, Update 1: Feb 2018, Update 2: March 2018

“My drawings have been described as pre-intentionalist, meaning that they were finished before the ideas for them had occurred to me. I shall not argue the point.” — James Thurber

Bill Buxton quotes this in the Anatomy of Sketching chapter in his Sketching User Experiences book. The pages that followed redefined my idea about the power of sketching.

Until then, I had always thought of sketching as an end: a way to externalize thoughts or a medium to convey fully formed intangible ideas. Bill takes it a step further by adding a new dimension to the perspective of sketching. He puts forth the idea of sketching being a medium for a dialogue or a conversation between people or with oneself.

Rarely, does a first attempt have the final solution or idea. Rather it should not. It definitely won’t be the best one. But it is the first attempt that helps formation of a better idea in the next attempt. In short, sketching is not an end but a means to an end.

Embracing this philosophy will help an ideator or designer to condition the mind to receive and incorporate critical feedback more gracefully.

Update 1: Feb 2018

Ever since I joined industry, I’m finding this philosophy even more relevant. In the agile world it helps in letting go, putting out imperfect work, receiving quick feedbacks and even quicker iterations. All leading to better work and happy users.

I have found writing to possess the same meditative qualities as sketching. Well, both are expression mediums after all!

Plus, I discovered a cool new term for the process, courtesy David Abkowitz, my ex-colleague at VMware, — fermentation.

Update 2: March 2018

Related reading — “How design is like writing is like ceramics”, if the title itself isn’t catchy enough please read to see how these three get better by just doing.