March 19, 2014

Why Sketching?? - guest post by Vivek Bhalekar

“Why do you sketch?” a simple question asked to me by many people, especially when they realise that sketching is a part of my work. I have worked with people from various educational and professional backgrounds and levels and almost all types of people have asked this question to me. Many of the students who wish to be designers also have this question, “Why sketching is important for a designer?” (Especially those who are not good at it ;)) I used to give various answers to this question based on the time available in my hand and genuineness or interest behind their question. But slowly it started making me ask myself, “Why do I sketch? What is so unique about it that I prefer sketching?”
In order to find the answer, I started thinking about the way I look at sketching as a tool. When and where I have used it as a designer or engineer?
As a designer I mainly use sketching for ideation, detailing and concept generation part. I also use it to define scenarios, analysing processes, defining problems. Even at times to record incident or observations during user study.
So, there are three things because of which I prefer sketching over anything else. Those are, Flexibility, Fluidity and Simplicity.

Flexibility: Watching me sketch ideas or draw flow chart of processes many people say, “Why don’t you do it in CAD directly?” or “You could have done that in excel..” But the point is till now I have not come across anything that can give me flexibility and fluidity as compared to sketching. If you want to draw a square in CAD it asks you dimensions. But, while sketching an idea no one will ask you the dimensions, view port, constrains or material. When an idea comes in our mind, it is very fragile, sometimes you do not have a clear picture. So there is a chance that you will lose it, if you do not document it quickly. Now if you operate CAD software, your mind gets occupied on thinking about commands or information required for operating software. Whereas, your mind should be working on analysing and developing that idea or thinking about another idea. But in comparison while sketching you can start with a simple 2-D square and go on developing it to a 3-D frame structure or mechanism. You can easily put comments or mental notes for your referral as and when they come. Hence, it maintains the synchronisation with spontaneity of thoughts.

Fluidity: This is something that anyone can develop with practice. Sketching is a process of transforming something that is in your mind to the paper. So, the more you practice, better it will get. It is a skill to develop synchronization between your mind and body (not just hands). By practice your sketching will become more fluidic and effortless. Which will allow you to think more about ides while sketching.

Simplicity: All you need for sketching are 3 simple things: Something on which you can sketch, something with which you can sketch and obviously a thought that you want to sketch. That is how minimal the requirements are. Imagine, you are with client or with your boss or discussing something with your team mates. You get an idea that you want to convey to them. You may not get a computer or any CAD software there. Sketching is what will come to your rescue there. Sometimes while doing a user survey you come across certain observation or idea that you want to capture. You can always sketch it then and there and keep it. All this is possible because of the simplicity of sketching.
Now there are also few values that get added to you if you keep sketching. It increases your observation, visualisation capabilities, knowledge about various things and your visual library. These things will help you in your work no matter what your profession is.

So, to sum up I would say, yes there are various tools that one can use at various stages of design. As a designer we all must try to master as many as we can. But, we should not forget the basic tool of sketching. As I believe that it is the ultimate weapon of designer. It is not a Swiss knife but a simple knife, which when used wisely can perform various functions effectively. So, Happy Sketching….

About the author:
Vivek Bhalekar completed his masters in product design from IDC, IIT-B. Currently he is working as an industrial design for Larsen & Toubro on defence projects.

He lives in Mumbai and his hobbies include sketching and trekking


Indrajit said...

Thanks a lot for the post.

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