Three Ways to Make the Most of Collaborative Sketching

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Collaborative sketching, or working with a group to draw low-fidelity concepts, is an important part of our process. Sketching typically occurs immediately after we unpack our research results and recommendations and sometimes as part of the same session. In most cases we’re sketching what will become detailed interface wireframes but it’s possible to use this exercise for any number of artifacts.

Though these are group sessions we encourage everyone to sketch independently before regrouping at the end of each screen or iteration to discuss as a group. The things we discuss after the first iteration often make their way into the second and third screen.

Don’t position it as a design exercise.

Most people in our sketching sessions aren’t designers. We encourage participation from project sponsors, developers, project managers, designers, and copywriters. Putting people in a situation where they feel an expectation to create quality illustrations can cause withdrawal or discomfort. Sketching is about building a shared understanding, putting all ideas and preconceptions on the table (literally), and looking at things through multiple lenses.

We prefer to think of these sessions as idea generation through lines, boxes, scribbles, and words. Emphasizing a high quantity of ideas vs. high quality sketches is key.

Timebox it.

We put a five minute time limit on each screen, view, or state. Timeboxing has several benefits:

  • It encourages participants to prioritize and results in the most important or high value ideas appearing first.
  • It reduces over-analysis and the back-and-forth that can come with having too much time.
  • It breaks up the larger task of sketching several views or screens and forces participants to focus.

Encourage participation from all levels.

Late input from previously-disengaged project sponsors can kill a project. To mitigate this risk we work with our clients to understand who will be reviewing and approving our work and invite them to participate in the sketching sessions. This approach has several benefits:

  • Since we often share research findings and recommendations at the start of the session it ensures everyone understands where we’re coming from.
  • It shows early, visible progress and helps those not involved in the project on a day-to-day basis feel part of that progress.
  • Most importantly, it prevents the dreaded swoop and poop in cases where design sprints aren’t practical.

Sketching is simple and has a very low barrier to entry. I encourage you to give it a try and use these guidelines to help as you do. If you’d like to learn more about how we execute these sessions or want us to lead your team please contact us.




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