13 Comments

  1. 6/19/2014
    Reply

    I like your article and the idea about sketching. I sometimes feel like like I should have the one good idea and people at work who don’t understand how design works think that too. But, its amazing how a design or solutions grows and evolves out of simple sketching.

    • csvenjohnson
      6/20/2014
      Reply

      For me this issue hit home when, as a young staff designer at a highly regarded in-house corporate design group, I was given a project in which the solution – and the necessary form to meet all the requirements of that product – seemed a foregone conclusion. I spent a couple of hours sketching but I already had the idea in my head, so I jumped into CAD and modeled the solution. “Voilà”, I smugly thought. “Done ahead of schedule.”

      Our design manager, a very cool gentleman by the name of Rich Ahern, came over and, without suggesting a different solution, told me to go back and really give it some thought; to paraphrase him, “Use the design process.”

      I was honestly a little incredulous. I argued a little and he politely listened. In the end, as I had some time anyway, I sat back down and started … sketch thinking.

      It turned out that I had another project involving a lot of blow-molded parts, so as I was looking for something to consider while sketching, I decided to try to make this injection molded part as a blow-molded piece instead; just rethinking the early assumptions about how people typically made those things. That exploration and some design sketching led me to a relatively unique (and probably patentable) design that was still injection molded, but incorporated living hinges to a) flatten a radically offset part line, and b) completely change how the thing looked.

      Like many good ideas, it was never manufactured, but it was a cool little solution. And I’d not have gotten there if our manager hadn’t simply encouraged me to use a process that involved some design sketch thinking (or whatever we should call it).

  2. Martin Skalski
    6/20/2014
    Reply

    I teach at design and I’d have to say that most students graduating now do not have the ability to sketch at a competent level. Those who have solid sketching skills are having little trouble finding jobs. Students are spending too much time on skills such as research, strategy, digital modeling, etc. that are not the core of industrial design.
    With the correct drawing instruction and follow up in their classes all students can leave university with refined sketching skills. The schools just have to make the choice to do that.

    • csvenjohnson
      6/20/2014
      Reply

      Completely agree, Martin. I don’t understand why it is that the basics have been so thoroughly sacrificed to make time for non-core skills. Not that research, design strategy, and the rest aren’t important, but the balance seems incorrect. And with so much buzz around additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing), there is apparently less need for manufacturing process instruction as well; as if molding will be a dead process in the next 20 years.

  3. Suman
    8/3/2014
    Reply

    is sketching must to become a industrial or product designer? help me please

    • csvenjohnson
      10/7/2014
      Reply

      While not necessarily a requirement, sketching in some form is so integral to the Industrial Design work experience that I would anticipate most employers would expect some level of expertise in this area. And again, I use the term “sketch” loosely. There are plenty of outstanding designers who don’t sketch with pencil and paper.

  4. Mika Saurus
    9/18/2014
    Reply

    Interesting comments. Here’s my 5 cents: I strongly believe in a design process, and in my opinion more important that sketching is to understand the task and the context. If you’re designing a vase, then sketching is most likely a valid approach. However, if you’re designing, say, a consumer electronics product, it’s much more important to define the drivers: 1. Who’s the user, 2. what’s the desired user experience, 3. possible emerging technologies, 4, materials, 5. manufacturing technologies, 6. form (sketches). This way each step will give you information for the next step, and you can iterate.

    • csvenjohnson
      10/7/2014
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mika.

      My response would be that sketching is, for me, a means to better understand the task and the context. What better way to understand both than sketching the experience itself?

      For example, there’s nothing wrong with taking an existing product and modifying it in such a way that it begins to address some user experience issues (e.g. “it’s too big but what if I cut off these corners with the bandsaw, put it back on and see how it feels then?”), and calling that a “sketch”. I’d argue that’s very much a part of the “design process” – an important part – and I’ve done it often.

      Furthermore, if after modifying the existing device so that it better meets user needs a designer continues thinking about the problem – perhaps to address manufacturing limitations incurred from the change – but rather than sitting around a conference table talking about the issues the designer instead uses a sketchpad as a problem-solving aid, isn’t that still part of the design process?

      I believe so and I’d argue that sketch thinking helps quite a bit with understanding the task and the context … for non-electronic consumer products and electronic consumer products alike (personally, I don’t see a difference between the two. We just finished some wearable technology concept work and the main problems weren’t electronic, they were non-electronic).

      Finally, regarding your list of design process drivers, understanding the user and the user experience is paramount for Industrial Designers; it’s essentially the reason the profession exists. However, to say that any of these is more important than sketching is to tell me that these are all more important than thinking. And that doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps you can clarify your reasoning a bit and I can respond more effectively. Thank you.

  5. angry design student
    2/13/2015
    Reply

    As an adult student studying industrial design (and having some previous experience on design in worklife) I would say that at least at our school the teachers are the biggest problem. Design teachers in my country are mostly 50-65 years old people, not very innovative, and very accustomed to their own way of doing things. And what is the way this 50-65 y.o. generation is used to doing design? It’s aesthetics and only aesthetics, at least in my country. So then these teachers try to force students to learn doing everything just thinking the aesthetics and forgetting usability, user experience, manufacturability, technological innovation etc. And what’s more, these teachers want the aesthetics practice done by pens, pencils, markers, foamcore, wood etc. They object digital technologies on principle, probably out of envy or something. They can’t accept that the whole profession is rapidly changing.

    What this causes for me is that I have to do huge amount of aesthetics stuff for the teachers who never teach you anything about ergonomics, usability, manufacturability and so on. And then I have my freetime, when I could study those aforementioned things about a proper design process. BUT I CAN’T! And that’s because of the greedy employers, who want that the students/ graduates applying for jobs should be professional in CAD, 3D modelling, Adobe package and so on. So the only thing I can do is study the software in my freetime.

    I accuse the teachers of the 50-65 year old generation for this! They have got everything in life so f**king easily and now they even try to ruin the life from us younger generations.

    • csvenjohnson
      2/24/2015
      Reply

      It’s difficult to respond to this comment since the specific circumstances aren’t revealed, but I’ll try.

      First, I’m in the same generation as your teachers, and while I devote quite a bit of time to user experience (blog entry up very soon), manufacturability, and other related product development issues, I do also pay attention to aesthetics. They’re important. Like it or not, products of industry are sold to people who make decisions based on aesthetics. That said, in the U.S. a professional industrial designer who focuses only on aesthetics is especially rare considering competition is global, aesthetics are subjective, and talented designers from all over the world have all the skills to compete.

      Regarding tools, I’m a proponent of pens, pencils, markers, foamcore, wood, etc. I also use a tablet and do quite a lot of CAD (self-taught on all but one application, almost entirely in my free time). I’ve also advised students to switch from one medium to another (as mentioned above) to help spur ideas. I still believe this is a good idea, and I still do it. Bottom line: the more proficient you are at all the tools of the trade, the more employable you are. I have no desire to learn more tools, but like you, I’m studying how to use another one in my free time. Maybe I can stop when I’m 70 years old.

      In regards to aesthetics, I don’t see a conflict between aesthetically beautiful shapes and highly practical forms. The world is full of design – both human-made and naturally occurring – which is both functional and beautiful. When I design something that isn’t both, I don’t feel like I’ve done my job. And doing both is an industrial designer’s job.

      As for designers my age who got everything so easily, I don’t know any of them, so I can’t speak to how they managed to accomplish everything so effortlessly. Perhaps I should have had your teachers!

      Cheer up, Angry. It could be worse.

    • Manfred
      12/1/2015
      Reply

      Re the ability to sketch with pen & paper in a digital world and it’s validity. . . I’m currently a student in an ID grad program at a large American university. Out of every class and studio, I’d say there are 2, maybe 3 students who are accomplished at sketching. Nearly all have Solidworks/CAD skills.

      Several of our undergrad students recently competed for 2 internship positions at a major global design/manufacturing company. The competition for these spots included ID students from all the major ID school in the US. During the interview, the manager asked to see the student’s Moleskine and didn’t even look at the digital renderings they brought along.

      This student won one of the spots with the company. In the end, how good you are in digital space will relate back to your skills with fine liners and copics. At the end of the day, sketching is just another way to communicate with people(clients/employers/coworkers). If it’s a tool in your arsenal then you are ahead of the game imo. It can’t hurt and can really only help differentiate you from the throngs of competition out there.

  6. […] This article talks about the importance of sketching within the design process for generating unexpected ideas. Sketching is something that designers increasingly lose sight of as they become more reliant on digital technologies. The article discusses how sketching that demonstrates thinking and iteration is just as important as showing polished results in applying for jobs. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.