Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Joy of Sketch : explorations in hand-crafted visuals

A detailed discussion about the use of sketch ...

"There’s always been a strong visual element to our work: architecture diagrams, interface wireframes, concept models, system and service models. And we’ve become adept at the computer applications that help us create these things. But there are other tools out there, such as the simple tools of pen, paper and sketching.

About two years ago, Adaptive Path experienced an upwelling of analog approaches. We started using design tools that jumped out of the screen and into the real world. We started using our hands to make things. Alongside our computers there appeared slabs of blank paper. Rather than reaching for a mouse, we started reaching for a Sharpie. Large rolls of paper and drafting dots became part of the lingua franca of client working sessions. Sketching was the new black.

And we saw the impact of these approaches in many ways: more visibility for design solutions. More engagement in collaborative working sessions with clients. More design artifacts co-created in real-time. Our design solutions got faster and stronger.

There’s a lot of research to support the idea that visual thinking activates different parts of our brains than language thinking. Pictures allow a holistic view of something. "Seeing is believing" holds especially true when working with a diverse group of people.

Graphic elements create stronger memory and recognition points; it’s easier to remember an image than a page of text. Illustrations communicate ideas faster than descriptions, because processing pictures requires less "translation" than written language. This means more meaning in less time. In addition, there is a tactile pleasure to hand sketching that is rich and engaging.

As these approaches have moved virally throughout the company, we’ve embraced them in a number of ways:

* Last October, The Grove Consultants held a 3-day internal training for AP staff on graphic facilitation.
* Using our new skills, we graphically captured the sessions at the Adaptive Path MX conference.
* Jesse sketches his way through the Aurora concept in this video.
* Leah and Brandon taught a range of analog techniques in Good Design Faster at UX week.
* We hosted Mark Baskinger to teach an internal training for AP staff, immediately followed by his workshop at UX week.
* Peter blogged about the siren song of pencil and paper.

Analog tools of pen and paper have had a major impact on our work. Looking back over the past two years, there are overall themes in the hands-to-paper trend. Below are four techniques that have supported more rigorous capture and exploration of ideas, fostered clearer communication of concepts, and as a result have enabled better and faster design. Each one is illustrated with a visual so that you can see how the different methods shift the nature of the info.

1) Hand Sketching

In order to become adept at capturing ideas and concepts visually, we need to know the basics of hand sketching. For the work we do, hand sketching falls into two main categories: drawing people, places & things; and drawing abstract concepts and ideas.

Drawing people, places, things
Getting comfortable with hand-sketching things, people and objects is key to communicating complex ideas for service design, product design and environments/spaces. We need to be able to communicate scenarios and interfaces clearly and visually, but at low fidelity. Tools in the toolkit are the basics of composition, shape, line quality, color, perspective and creating abstract human forms. Put together, these elements comprise a visual language for telling compelling stories visually and quickly.

What it’s good for:

* Illustrating product concepts and product interfaces.
* Creating scenarios and storyboards.
* Drawing physical spaces.

What it looks like:"    (Continued via adaptive path, Kate Rutter)    [Usability Resources]

Drawing people, places, things. - Usability, User Interface Design

Drawing people, places, things.

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