UX sketch camp, by Jonny Goldstein

Last month, I got to spend a day with a bunch of User Experience (UX) designers and others interested in learning how to use sketching as a tool in their work. About 30 people braved the icy snow to do sketching drills, learn about cool pencils, pens, and paper, and hear me talk about getting clients to tell you what they want as opposed to how to do it.

While I was there to share how we frame conversations with our clients, I took away three key lessons.

It’s really hard to get people to agree on something unless you draw a picture.

In UX, sketching is a way to quickly (and cheaply) make iterations. It can be as simple as showing different parts of the screen and what goes there, and as detailed as having a full-scale drawing. Showing what you’re talking about is immensely helpful in generating feedback and alignment.

You don’t have to be an artist to make a good sketch.

A building is just a rectangle with some lines and a smaller rectangle. A person can be a series of circles and lines. You can create a host of facial expressions with just a curve here or there. Once you start looking for shapes in everyday objects, you’ll see how easy it is to sketch something.

Repetition makes the outcome more predictable.

Running drills regularly – say, filling a page with squares – and aiming for consistency means when you’re sketching in front of a client or colleague, you know how your square will come out. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it will make consistent and predictable. That’s what you really need to aim for.