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Last updated on 7/20/22

Sketch and Take Notes

Computer vs paper

It’s tempting for a designer to jump straight into the graphic or visual design of a project, but as you’ll learn, taking steps to play with your ideas first will save you a lot of time, energy, resources, and stress. Start your project with some simple sketches. This means you'll need paper and a pencil! ✏️📃

First things first: get a notebook. Yes, a paper one, and no, not a tiny one that fits in your pocket. You need room for your ideas to breathe and spread themselves out. This is your notebook and will not be used by anyone else. Get messy. Write outside of the lines (maybe you will even prefer a notebook without lines). Every designer has their own preference for notebooks. Pentagram designer Michael Bierut uses super cheap black and white composition notebooks (he even has a talk about these 86 notebooks!). Moleskine and Muji are also popular notebook brands. It’s worth noting that all designers choose what works for them - just take a look inside their notebooks

The many benefits of sketching include:

  • Gaining clarity through exploration

  • Connecting ideas (that may typically be unrelated)

  • Supporting rapid-prototyping

  • Allowing for iteration and experimentation

  • Keeping the process moving quickly

  • Fostering communication of ideas with team members

  • Saving time, energy, and budget

  • Aligning mental models

  • Integrating emotional responses

  • Acting as an archive of process

Sketching is something you'll use a lot in UX when prototyping ideas and imagining layouts and screens. Things to keep in mind:

  • Don't worry about being perfect - use a marker or pen rather than a pencil to embrace imperfection.

  • Don't erase – you want to be able to iterate and re-visit past versions.

  • Don't get caught up in the details in the early project phases – start with the big picture.

  • Don't stress if your sketches aren't as "pretty" as someone else's – experiment with different styles to determine what works best for you.

Everyone has their own style

Sketching can take on many different styles and forms.  In addition to sketching ideas, sketching notes may be something you want to keep in mind throughout this path. Dan Roam makes the case for drawing on the back of a napkin! Meanwhile, Sunni Brown started “the Doodle Revolution” and Mike Rohde has made Sketchnotes his job.

UXMastery reviews the book "Doodle Revolution" by Sunni Brown. [1:38 minutes]

Mike Rohde's Sketchnotes [2:25 minutes] (Google image search "Mike Rohde sketchnotes" to get a taste of his notebooks!)

Verbal to Visual's no-drawing approach to visual note-taking [12 minutes]

As you move through the UX Design Path, remember the mantra "show, don't tell." Sketching is a great way to share your work and process, whether to show your mentor your current progress or to include sample work when putting together a case study for your portfolio. 

Let's recap!

  • Sketching (by hand!) is in an important early step in the design process.

  • Experiment and discover the style of sketching and note-taking that works best for you.

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