The meaning of sketches in today’s design world

Sketches in the design process: what are they, how to use them, and the communication behind it

The design process is changing. In the past, sketches were the only way to visualize ideas. Now designers have access to plenty of tools to visually explain their thoughts.

New technologies and softwares have been developed with the target to ease and speed up the design process.

Is analog sketching still relevant in times where parametric CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software allows us to quickly create and study shapes?

Is there still a need to create hand sketches in times where CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) software allows us to generate photorealistic visuals in short time spans?

Do companies leave enough time for sketching in a world where tempo is one of the main drivers to win or lose against the competition?

Do you have to be a good sketcher to be a good designer?

These are some of the questions design students and young graduates are currently having when it comes to making a decision if sketching will be relevant for their job applications or when they have to take a decision to deepen their skillset around sketching or not.

Sketches - Watch ideation sketch
Watch ideation sketch

To be able to give an answer here, we need to have a deeper understanding of what sketching is actually used for.

We differentiate between two kinds of sketches:

  • Ideation
  • Presentation Sketches

Both sketch techniques have their place and reason, but are relevant for different purposes and cannot be compared.

Ideation sketch of a coffee table design

Ideation Sketches

“As long as you get the message across, the quality of the sketch does not matter.”

We believe every designer uses ideation sketches during the design process.

Ideation sketches are quick pre-study scribbles often done before the designer goes into CAD programs to build the concept in 3D.

Also we see these a lot in brainstorming sessions between colleagues and discussions with the engineers.

Sketches - coffee pot ideation sketch
Coffee pot ideation sketches

Here, quick sketches are done to communicate ideas or solutions.

Our experience has shown that one quick hand sketch tells more than 1000 words.

We believe that these ideation sketches are mandatory in every design process.

If you want to know more about Studio DWAS’ views and perspectives, don’t miss It’s time to change time perception with StudioDWAS.

Presentation Sketches

“Presentation sketches are emotional, sexy and cool. We simply like to look at them.”

Presentation sketches are pitch-perfect advanced design drawings that usually take quite some time to produce.

These require much more precision and detail than the ideation sketches and are mainly used to introduce the design idea to clients or management.

Also individual designers use presentation sketches to promote and show off their skill set in various social media channels. And it works, we are seeing plenty of successful accounts sharing sketches.

While corporate companies often skip the process of hand sketching and go straight into 3D, design consultancies and the automotive industry are seeking for good sketchers.

Here hand-sketching still is one important phase during the design process.

Finished presentation sketch of a drill design

Now back to our original question.

What is the meaning of sketches in today’s design world? Is hand sketching still relevant?

We believe ideation sketches are mandatory during the design process.

There is a need for every designer to do ideation drawings to come up with the first ideas and to communicate with engineers and colleagues.

We however believe that you can be a great designer even though you are not good at presentation sketches.

Sketches - Glass effect for presentation sketch
Presentation sketch process showcasing a glass effect

Some of the best designers we have met during our careers are actually really bad at presentation sketching.

But it is a skill that certainly can help your career.

Automotive companies or design consultancies are mainly looking for designers with advanced sketching skills. Being a good sketcher certainly opens more doors for your career.

“This skillset can take your design career to another level.”

And let us be honest.

Sketches - Braun shaver presentation sketch
Presentation sketch of the Braun shaver design

We should not forget the emotional side of a sketch conveys.

The fact that only a few designers are capable of creating beautiful sketches, makes these pieces so special. A sketch is not rational.

It is emotional, artistic, sexy, cool, and vibrant.

We simply enjoy looking at it.

If you are curious to know more about Studio DWAS, its story, and design approach don’t miss Storytelling design: interview with StudioDWAS.

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