SketchClub: design methods (and pizza)

By Kathryn Parkes

Last Friday, I ran a Back to Basics session, called SketchClub. We’ve hosted a number of evening SketchClubs for the IxDADublin over the past few months and we thought it’d be great to run one at iQ, with some pizza thrown in.

Before pizza

After pizza

SketchClub exercises use drawing to think through, collaborate and present ideas. And this Back to Basics session was a chance for everyone to sketch like they used to when they were five years old and everything was possible in the world.

We had some self-proclaimed ‘Sharpie Virgins’ though they were surprisingly adept given the chance.

Warm-up: Ten Second Sketch

To prove that everyone can sketch, everyone was given ten seconds to sketch an animal on a Post-It and stick it to their forehead. You could sense the psychologists amongst us thinking ‘Ah so you sketched a hedgehog, interesting…’.

The outcome? Everyone can sketch (though the odd person seemed to have invented a whole new species of animal that evolution hasn’t quite got around to yet).

Exercise 1: Sketching concepts

As UX designers, we spend a lot of our time sketching UI elements, like boxes or buttons. But for more communicative design work, such as for storyboarding, it can take a bit more practice to get conceptual ideas across.

This exercise involved picking one of three conceptual words out of a hat (‘delightful’, ‘innovative’ or ‘trust’) and sketching the first thing into that comes into your head. Then everyone shows their sketches and talks through their ideas.


The 'Delightful' sketches


The 'innovative' sketches


The 'Trust' sketches

We were constrained to using a maximum of three lines in some sketches. If we could do it in one, all the better.

Exercise 2: Input-Processor-Output

Do you remember the kids’ game where one person would draw a head, fold the paper, pass it on, the next person would draw the torso and so on until a bizarre creature unfolds? Well, this exercise is a bit like that.

The goal is to design a system with an input, a processor and an output. And I mean “system” in the broadest sense of the word; we’re talking more Willy Wonka than IBM.

The first person draws an input, folds the paper under leaving enough of a hint of the connection points, and passes it on. Without speaking, the second person sketches the processor, passes it on and the third person sketches the output.

Then it’s time to present the completed system. One by one the person who has received the final drawing has to stand up, explain their system and give it a title.

Here are some of the best/weirdest:

Fish beer

The sound of goldfish

Pizza alien brain

Water music

What we learned

Sketching is more than design – it’s also communication. For us, SketchClub was a fun way to flex our UX muscles.

We also learned that in iQ there’s a general obsession with wine, beer, music, fish and death…in that order.