Seek the sketching state

Sketching state is where everyone in product creation is collaborating enough and sharing enough that sketches work. All too often, spending lengthy time coming up with a complete prototype can be far too time-consuming. Passing pixel precision backwards and forth limits the flow and stops that spark of creativity. However, it’s not a state that doesn’t need evolving as a team and careful tending to as a designer.

I want to be clear; there is a place for almost every form of presentation you can think of for a design concept. I am not talking about stopping using whatever works for you. However, getting to a position where you can share early, sketch often and be open about those early ideas – that’s gold for any creative. It’s not something instantly achieve, though and takes work collectively.

I find myself when joining a team testing the waters with how ‘sketch’ I can go. This is an excellent thing to do; it allows me to see where communication is, where collaboration needs to grow. By doing this type of testing, I can refine and adjust my communication, learn where I need to improve and what communication style works for my joining team. One size never fits all when delivering design – that’s why we have a toolkit. I also use sketching as a tool to test during later team development as we grow.

I also think it’s important to frame that sketch doesn’t mean half baked; you still should have a solid idea to share, it should be at least complete as an idea sentence, your visual though might be very raw. Sketching is valuable short-hand communication and key as the product grows and iterations happen rapidly. I encourage not just designers to talk in sketches if the space is comfortable for that – it takes trust across roles for that, though, and safety has to be at its peak for everyone.

Design is as much about judging the way you can deliver the message as delivering at times. I don’t get it right all the time; nobody does. It helps if you have a range of methods to try. I haven’t found one process that works for everyone, although you might have different outcomes. My processes are chameleons, but the one that consistently fails are words alone.

Similarly, talking in flat files passed as complete packs to make, that never works – signoffs lead to silos all too often, and frequent conversations need to happen as work is going on. The design needs to be iterative and respond to the actual product work, not remain stuck on ice. This is actually where having a design system that can prototype sketch comes in useful.

Being in a sketching state as a team means a high level of collaboration; it’s a strong flow of trust and space for each member to bring ideas openly. This is powerful to create in and one personally I seek constantly to create within.


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