A sketch must be disposible

The strength of sketching is that it’s a fast way to capture ideas.

Since a low-fidelity sketch is fast—pen on paper, as shown—it’s also low cost. And low cost means it’s relatively disposable if it turns out you can’t use that idea.

If you don’t like my first 5 ideas, that’s OK. I can have more ideas, easily and at low cost. And so can you.

A variation on this theme: iteration is also painless. With relatively little invested in a sketch, modifying an idea costs marginally more.

The payoff is that you can quickly saturate the problem space with ideas, before you analyse them. This is a key part of why Five Sketches™ works so well for development teams who are in a hurry to start programming.

It’s important to keep sketches cheap. Here’s a video of a cool sketching tool that, if used as a design aid, would greatly increase the project risk. That’s because this cool tool is expensive to install, expensive to learn (it requires training) and expensive to use (it allows only 1 user at a time). All this will reduce the number of sketches in the problem space—and it’s risky to design without considering all options.

The Assist Sketch Understanding System (ASUS) design environment: a computer interprets a sketch and then simulates a cart rolling down a hill.

2 Replies to “A sketch must be disposible”

  1. Hi Jerome. I drew my sketches on tractor feed paper instead of the standard ream. I found it liberating to thinking of my pages as a continuous stream of ideas, rather than independent thoughts.

    To your point about the expensive tool, you must admit that it is cool! If anyone wants to try their hand with an inexpensive variation of the concept in the video, visit: http://www.miniclip.com/games/magic-pen/en/ — My son found this game in grade one and I’ve enjoyed it more than he does. ;-)

    You and Alex should team up: http://tangibleinteraction.com/


  2. Hi Jerome, I’ve just found your blog and enjoying reading your posts.
    I’m a HUGE fan of Bill Buxton as well :-)

    In all fairness, the YouTube video of Randall Davis’s ASSIST prototype, is an academic proof-of-concept and not even intended for HCI sketching.

    Personally I practice a mixture of paper-based ideation, and software assisted sketching. For certain parts of the design process it’s really useful to have a digital sketch to interact with because for some tasks it helps me cheapen the sketch by reusing components perhaps from a pattern library.

    Thanks for the interesting posts!

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