To some, sketching sounds like it should be left to the artsy and designer types. In the digital design world, sketching is how ideas go from a simple thought to a visual concept. Sketching is the act of mapping out what the end result could potentially look like. It is a means of ideation, brainstorming, and ‘getting ideas down on paper’. These sketches/ideas can vary in complexity from low fidelity (super simple) to high fidelity (elaborate) depending on the timeline and skill levels of the team members involved. Having these ideas documented through sketches is one of the number one goals in the ideation process. These sessions go by many names: Design studios, collaborative kickoffs, Ideation sessions or, here at UX Guys, Rapid Design Labs.
Anyone on the team can (and should) pick up a pen and paper and articulate an idea. They should be encouraged to participate in the ideation process because everyone has ideas and potential solutions to the challenge at hand. Getting ideas from the entire project team offers unique perspectives from the design team (IxD’s included) and the primary stakeholders.
Ideally, this collaborative ideation session takes place in the same physical space, or using a collaborative digital tool very early in the design process. Typically it is used as a project kickoff event or soon after the kickoff. There are a number of tools that can be used for sketching: Google draw, sketch, omnigraffle, Axure, Photoshop, or a good old fashioned pen and paper.
The big question here is why all team members should be involved in ideation, regardless of their formal role on the team. While there are a host of benefits to this collaborative ideation, four main benefits stand out:
Get the team thinking about the challenge at hand
As was mentioned before, the number one goal in an ideation session or Rapid Design Lab is to get all kinds of ideas out into the open. It’s an ‘all ideas are good ideas’ mentality at this point. This process of brainstorming is important to engage all team members by having them think about the task at hand. A collaborative in-person session is the best method of getting everyone on the same page and establishing the goal of the session.
Sketches are the building blocks to make ideas come to life
A quick sketch is a means of jotting down an idea or thought. If this idea is documented the team can come back to it and grow it further into a complete concept. More importantly, common themes tend to emerge from the sketching sessions, and further detail can be layered on top of the initial design. Sketches are collected from the team, and a unified design is presented back at a later date that incorporates everyone’s ideas in a more detailed and robust design. And remember, some of the best ideas have been sketched on the back of a napkin.
Convey an idea that will spark more ideas to build upon
The major benefit of a collaborative in-person session is that ideas sketched by the team will spark more ideas. That’s the beauty of a diverse team. Each individual brings a unique perspective and understanding of user needs to the table, and the best ideas come from sharing and collaborating to reach a consensus.
Allows team members to be creative, engaged, and collaborative
Collaborative sessions allow team members to flex their creative muscles. They encourage out of the box thinking, that leaves the team with a different perspective on each of the other team members normal roles. The sessions are meant to be engaging, which encourages team members to contribute to each other’s ideas and solutions. This leads to team members becoming invested in the project’s success. Finally, the act of collaborating and creating is good for the team dynamic and eventually strengthens working relationships and trust between members.
Collaborative ideation with the entire team is a huge indicator of the success of a project, and it should be done continuously throughout the life of the project. Iterative collaboration increases a team’s creativity and engagement. It produces ideas that can be built upon and that inspire new innovative concepts. It gets the team thinking about the specific challenges ahead.
So pick up that sharpie, and get sketching!