5 benefits to hand sketching and why you should still do it
Five years on, my approach and rational to hand sketching may have shifted but has it become a redundant part of the design process?
A while ago I wrote this post
; it covered some benefits to hand sketching when designing. This was written early on in my product design career when the optimism of youth was still prevalent. Now that the corporate world has taken its toll on me, I thought I would review the original post in the light of my new wisdom.
Gets ideas out quicker
Sketching is the ideal tool to use during your ideation phase as it quickly and effectively documents a series of ideas.
This still stands true, despite the development in design software and established design patterns and systems, sketching is still a very good way of getting ideas out of your head and onto paper. By sketching you are quickly jotting down and recording your ideas. Whether you use them or not, these ideas help clarify issues, and all without spending too much time setting up new documents and frames.
Allows you to easily develop the foundations of a concept
Hand sketching gives you the ability to see the project from a holistic point of view. There is no need to get bogged down with specific details if your aim is to develop a concept or general flow.
Yes. When in doubt sketch; it will help get your thoughts in order and get an understanding of the problem and sometimes the solution. At this point colours, buttons, copy, etc. don’t matter. Looking at things from a high level view can help put your project in perspective.
Sketches get an idea across democratically
Sketches are a democratic and interactive way of presenting your design. Because perfection is not required stakeholders and non-designers can easily understand your idea, and may even encourage them to work with you.
As democratic as sketches are, that is not what stakeholders want to see most of the time. And good luck getting all the stakeholders to work with you.
Quicker iterations and mistakes allowed
Ideas and concepts can develop a lot quicker if you allow for iterations and mistakes to happen earlier. Hand sketching is the perfect medium for this.
This point is still valid; sketching weeds out all the major and high level issues, and may even prompt you to develop certain aspects of your design. However this can be done just as quickly with a hacky design on Figma. The bonus is you can copy and paste on Figma, so this may not always be appropriate.
It is clearly a work in progress
Sketches are clearly not the end product. This means when you want to explain something through sketches there will be less fixation on the finer details. Hand sketches also provide a platform for collaboration with designers and non-designers.
Although it is true that sketches are great for explaining concepts, it is not common for stakeholders and non-designers to care about the process. The general rule is that the closer to the finished design you can present the better for non-designers.
Should you still sketch?
Yes and here is why; sketching offers a creative freedom that Figma and Sketch can’t seem to do. The speed in which you let your thoughts out will not be slowed down by recalling keyboard shortcuts but instead there is an innate sense of ease allowing you to focus on the design problem.
Here are 5 more reasons you should hand sketch:
It shows your working out and the process you took. This will also help recall any design routes you did not take.
It shows your personal style. So often design systems take away the designers personality from the end product; this is your chance to inject your style back in.
Sketches looks good in your portfolio. In an age of minimalist portfolios it adds depth to your work as you can see the design process (see point 1).
It’s easy, there isn’t a such a steep learning curve compared to learning how to use design software.
Sketching really is quick and convenient, it’s the design equivalent of writing a list down to get your thought out.