Inspired by… Pencils Down

By October 21, 2012Blog, GDC, Inspired By, Sketchbook

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On Saturday, October 20, GDC Manitoba presented Pencils Down: A BlueSky Workshop. Led by Mark Baskinger, associate professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh), and William Bardel, principal of Luminant Design (New York City), the workshop offered clear and concise ways to learn how hand-sketching techniques – with pencils and pens – are an effective means of recording, presenting and sharing ideas. A primer on sketching, it helped the attendees to become more confident and better visual communicators, while demonstrating simple ways of using drawing to enhance the process of collaborative design.

As one of the organizer’s of this event, I’m happy to say that we sold out! From what I could see, our attendees had fun and walked away inspired. For those who attended, and those who didn’t, our presenters, Mark and Will, are in the process of writing a book that goes into much more depth than our one-day workshop did. Want to be notified when the book is published? Sign up for the Drawing Ideas book mailing list here.

On behalf of the entire GDC Manitoba chapter executive, I want to say a big thank you to Carl Shura for volunteering to design all of the materials for Pencils Down: A BlueSky Workshop. We really appreciate it!!!

Thanks as well to Mark Baskinger and William Bardel for making the trip up to Winnipeg. It was really great to get the chance to learn from you.

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In addition to helping to plan the workshop, I was fortunate enough to be one of the attendees, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the workshop from a more personal perspective.

Like many other designers, I grew up drawing and loved it. But by the time I was done design school, I had lost most of that desire. I still doodle when I’m bored as well as thumbnail/concept sketch for design projects, but I don’t create finished drawings or illustrations anymore. My main creative outlet these days is photography which I find really inspiring, but it seems a shame to have all but lost an entire skillset. So, I decided to attend the workshop partially because of our Chapter President’s recommendation, but also because I hoped to gain some of that desire to draw again.

These are my takeaways from the workshop — some direct notes that I wrote down, some observations and some decisions.

1) Why sketch by hand? To become a better communicator. Hand-generated sketching adds a different dimension to our work (“design sketching”).
2) It’s important to always differentiate how you work versus your clients.
3) There is an education process for our clients. By using sketching to illustrate our thought process along the way, it helps them to appreciate that we bring value. It shows design thinking.
4) Drawing is thinking — use it as a tool.
5) Sketching creates dialogue, which creates rapport, which creates trust, which results in more work from the client.
6) You can’t sell anything based on the form, you have to tell a story. To tell a story well, illustrate from these five ‘AEIOU’ dimensions — activities, environments, interactions, objects and users.
7) Use drawing to understand something (how it works, what’s behind the scenes, etc.). If you want an exact rendering, than just take a photo.
8) Always carry a sketchbook.
9) Revisiting a subject over and over again will result in improvement. You have to draw a lot for any idea. Never erase.

1) During the course of the day, I realized that the majority of the time, I take my notes in written form. If I’m trying to capture measurements or the shape of something, I’ll draw it, but in the past, I wouldn’t have thought to capture interactions, activities or users while note-taking. I’m going to make an effort to do that from now on.
2) Rather than doodling random things like eyes and wheat (two of my favourite things to draw), I’m going to try to be more purposeful. I typically start doodling when I’m bored, or when there are no actual written notes to take, but I think if I pay attention to the other dimensions, that I’ll find something to draw.
3) I thumbnail and concept sketch for design projects, but I also need to start doing that for my photography. My best photographs are those with a strong concept, and I’ve been lacking in that department lately.
4) I’m going to start drawing for fun again, and I’m going to take inspiration from the examples that our presenters showed during the workshop. I don’t have to draw amazing pieces of art (which I’ll never finish), but I do need to draw regularly — even if it is simple exercises or shapes. I need to go buy a sketchbook!
5) I think I’m going to start another 365 project soon. However this time, it won’t be based on photography only. Instead, I’m going to try to do something creative every day — whether it is drawing, taking photos with my SLR, instagramming, writing, etc. I know from experience that doing a 365 project kept me in a creative head space – I saw a lot of growth over the year and my ideas were flowing better and faster.

If you attended the workshop and are reading this, I’d love to hear your takeaways from the day. Please share!

One of Rob’s workshop drawings:
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One of my workshop drawings:
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