Sketching is more than making correct drawings

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Waanders, Remko; Eggink, Wouter; Mulder-Nijkamp, Maaike
Series: E&PDE
Section: Pedagogy
Page(s): 299-304


Designers have always used sketching as an important tool in the design process. Sketching in this context is not a goal in itself but can be considered as a tool to make better designs. More and more people recognize the power of visualisation even in fields other than design engineering. Sketching is a very direct way of putting your thoughts down in 2D and has several different useful effects as: ordering your thoughts, better understanding of difficult shapes, functioning as a communication tool, and providing an iterative way of developing shapes. We developed sketching courses based on these effects.

There are three sketching courses in our bachelor program Industrial Design Engineering: (IDE), Sketching and concept drawing (SCT), Product Presentation Drawing (PPT) and Applied sketching skills (TTV). This line of courses is built on three pillars:

1 Learning to sketch; Theory, speed, control of the materials

2 Learning from sketching; Developing a better insight in complex 3D shapes

3 Sketching as a design tool; Communication, ordering your thoughts, iterative working

Next to learning the theory and different drawing techniques it’s very important to let the students get familiar with the idea that sketching is more than making correct drawings. So in two-third of the lessons we focus on the other two pillars by applying the developed techniques in design tasks.

We have lessons where we purely focus on the development of the form complexity. Jan Corremans has introduced a straight-forward way of iterative form developing that we use in the first year drawing lessons. In this stadium it is wise to give simple assignments so the students will have the sketching ability to complete the assignment based on the students’ limited knowledge of sketching. In this way the students can focus on the process of developing shapes instead of the sketching itself.

Time pressure is another good way of forcing the students to put their thoughts on paper in a quick and iterative way. We designed some assignments under strict time regulations and to encourage iterative working even more, we deliver the student different tools for making quick associations.

The principle of iterative working is embedded in the whole bachelor program. Firstly in hand sketching, but later on also in tablet-sketching, Photoshop, 3D foam models, graphic design programmes, and CAD. This way the students learn that the rules for successfully developing your design with different tools are exactly the same as with two dimensional sketching.


We now see that more and more students instinctively start sketching in an iterative manner when they are given a new design assignment. As freshmen, the students often try to sketch the final drawing at the start of the process. We now see that after the first drawing courses they really start using their sketching skills to do design explorations.

This paper shall describe the theoretical background of our threefold sketching philosophy and its implementation in our design curriculum. We show some student results and discuss the benefits and limitations of this approach.

Keywords: Sketching, Designtool, Education, Iterative approach, Shape development


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