Why Sketching is Essential Part of Product Interface Design Process?

Sketch (from Greek σχέδιος – schedios) is a preliminary drawing fixing the idea and main outlines of the created object. O. G. Maksimov says that: “A sketch is an image made in the process of a creative search for possible architectural and planning solutions in the form of drawings and drafts”. Modern reality added to this definition also the capabilities of a computer-synthesized way of creating a sketch. 

Today, customers respond with interest to hand-drawn graphics, sometimes even take part in this process and our team appreciates this very much. However, this applies only to the early stages of choosing the variants. An expressive sketch can captivate, liberate the customer’s thinking. 

The voiced thought is just an idea that is in the air, however being represented in sketch, it materializes and begins to live its own life. Sketching phase is a good time for the customer to focus the product designer’s attention on the important functional details of the interface.

image: Sketches in UX design

Further, the sketch will be materialized into the user interface, and there will be no artistic understatement and generalizations. Obviously, for the final approval, everything must be thought through down to the smallest detail, depicted in all possible states, conditions and user flows. Some design elements can be changed, added or taken away from the final version of the user interface, but the dialogue is much easier when hand-drawn sketches come to product designer’s aid. 

At this stage, the main UX architect’s tools are a pencil, sometimes a pen and a sketchbook, which is always within good UX architect’s reach. It is filled within a few months: these are sketches that come to mind, notes that the designer makes during  communication process with a client or team, and drawings or sketches for projects. Illustrating the discussion of the project is also a good practice. 

In our practice, hand-drawn sketches usually exist at the stage of initial product interface architecture discussion and brainstorming. This is a very important stage of user interface design, but it is worth remembering that sketch is not a wireframe. The difference between a project that was sketched manually and a project that was designed on a computer is huge. A hand-drawn sketch is a direct continuation of product architect, his thoughts and feelings. Computer version will look much simpler. Everything will be improved in it and reduced to certain standards. Therefore, if the project can not be «ignited»  initially by means of putting a strong emotional charge into the first sketches, potentially, it may completely dry out in virtual space.

Sometimes, it’s quite difficult to think and express emotions directly in computer programs, that’s why sketching always comes before wireframing.
The idea and the sensations will slip away while you trying to remember the buttons. The hand-drawn sketch is much easier to improve, it is more flexible for the concept development process than computer graphics. Moreover, the hand-drawn sketch has phenomenal charm. A sketch is able to emphasize the man-made essence of the UX design process, visually illustrating its author’s thought process.
             “Sketch is a message and it always has an addressee”
Hand-drawn drafts can be used to communicate with different people involved in the product creation process and on its different stages. Among them may be UI designers, developers, managers and other people who participate in the product interface design process. Sketches are instrumental when the product architecture’s aim is to transferee his vision about the placement of certain product elements into something material. At this point, sketch turns into a real instruction for UI designer or product developer.
The nuances that are important during the product interface creation process are not the only moments product designer may  illustrate by means of sketches. They also help to divide a product interface into stages and control the time. On this draft, vital product information may be reflected: for example, where to place certain product elements and the way they should work.


image: Sketches and product design process

Nowadays, sketches are one of the important parts of a successful product interface design. Designer often refers to this method of thoughts materialization in the early stages of working on a new project. These sketches should be clear first of all for him and for the team members involved in the project at this stage. Then these sketches are turned into computer perspectives (or wireframes) that will soon be turned into product clickable prototype. Hand-drawn sketches help to demonstrate a way of thinking, individual approach to every single part of the product interface. 

The aesthetics and product appearance are undoubtedly important, however, beauty just for the sake of beauty and with the further intention of putting, somehow, a function into it, has nothing to do with the ultimately working product. That’s why product designer often refers to this method of thoughts materialization in the early stages of working on a new project. 

Share this post