How to develop your sketching skills in a fun and easy way
One year ago…
…I’ve launched my first online course, Sketching for UX Designers. Next to the course, I wanted to give everyone interested in sketching an opportunity to practice this skill every single day, so I created a 100-day sketching challenge. In this article, I summarize what this challenge is about, what its benefits are, and I also share some sketches sent by challenge-participants.
UX-related Visual Library
It is extremely important in any area of visual thinking (e.g. sketchnoting, graphic recording, graphic facilitation, mindmapping, sketching interfaces, facilitating ideation workshops during the UX process) to have a visual library of objects and concepts you might need to sketch out:
- it gives you confidence,
- it contributes to developing your own sketching style,
- it helps you express your ideas faster, and
- it makes it easier to come up with new visual metaphors for more advanced concepts.
How does the challenge work?
The challenge is about building your own UX-related visual library, and also about creating a habit around sketching.
This is how it works: I send out 3 objects or concepts related to UX each day for 100 days, and the task is to create a sketch for them. I also provide my own solutions for the previous day’s exercise. As a result of completing the challenge, you’re going to end up with 300 UX-related visuals drawn by yourself! And it only takes about 5 minutes a day.
This is how Day 1’s exercise looks like (it is a template that participants can print out):
This is my solution (I send this out on Day 2, alongside with 3 new things to sketch out):
While doing this every single day greatly contributes to building a habit, you don’t have to complete the exercises every day to receive the next exercise, you can complete them at your own pace, leave out exercises etc. In my experience, many participants use weekends to catch up, completing 5–10 exercises in one or two days.
Additionally, it is also fine to just “collect” my solutions, and use them later as a reference point. And if you only complete for example 10% of the challenge, you’re going to have 30 hand-drawn icons to start your visual library with, it is not a bad start. 😉
How can you use your visual library as a designer?
Your title doesn’t matter, whether you are a UX, UI, product or service designer, being confident at sketching and having a visual library will help you
- facilitate workshops and meetings with your team or with your clients (using visuals enables a shared understanding)
- collaborate with your team and express your ideas in a more streamlined way (e.g. conducting design sprints; mapping research data),
- make your UX methods more efficient (e.g. annotating user interview scripts and notes with little icons; creating storyboards).
Check out Chris Spalton’s great article about this aspect!
According to the feedback I get from participants, the challenge is useful for beginner designers in a way that if they don’t know what a certain concept/method is about, first they have to learn a bit about that method in order to be able to sketch it out. That way, the sketching challenge motivates them to expand their UX knowledge. For instance, some participants did not know what Fake Door Testing is, so thanks to the exercise they are now aware of that method.
Showcase of the solutions sent to me
I encourage participant to send me their solutions, I love to give feedback! It is also important to underline that there are infinite number of solutions for each exercises! I send out my icons to provide inspiration, but naturally everyone has her/his own interpretation and way of thinking.
Here are some sketches sent or shared by subscribers:
Monthly Sketching Exercise
After sending out the 100-day challenge, I help maintaining the sketching habit by giving additional sketching exercises each month. Each of these monthly exercises contains 12 objects/concepts to sketch out, and each month is about a different topic, for example: food, nature, transportation or video games.
For instance, this is how the template for the 8th month looks like:
And here are my solutions (I send out the solutions 1 month later alongside with 12 new things to sketch out):
A sidenote about forming habits
In a study conducted some years ago, 96 participants were asked to choose an everyday behavior, and do it every day for 12 weeks. During this period, they self-reported whether they performed the chosen behavior or not.
The research article written about the study states that if you repeat the habit in a consistent context, doing so will increase its automaticity. It means that a certain setting will make you develop the habit more efficiently, since certain cues in your context (like a location, a time of the day) trigger the habit as an automatic response. Just think about brushing your teeth.
The results of the study show that on average, a participant needed 66 days to reach the level of this automatic response, with a range from 18 to 254 days.
So that is why
- a 100-day challenge seemed to be a nice middle ground, and
- I suggest that participants attach sketching to an already existing habit (e.g. sketch during a certain coffee break).
(*How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world by
Phillippa Lally, Cornelia H. M., van Jaarsveld, Henry W. W. Potts, Jane Wardle)
I hope that my article provides a great inspiration for anyone who wants to start a sketching journey or improve sketching skills.
If you’ve already joined the challenge: thank you so much for being a part of this thing! Feel free to send me your sketches, I’d gladly give you some feedback!
If you haven’t, please consider taking the challenge! You can subscribe here.