Sketching can be really useful for teams working on digital products and services. It can help you quickly:
- Clarify your thoughts while you work through ideas, problems and potential solutions.
- Communicate ideas to a wider team.
Recently, designer and illustrator Eva-Lotta Lamm came in and ran sketching workshops with the Co-op Digital Design team. Although sketching is something we already do, the sessions with Eva were beneficial because she:
- showed us how to become more confident with our pens
- encouraged us to be more comfortable sketching in front of the team
- made us consider the right level of detail for what we need to communicate
- shared tips to help us improve the quality of our sketches
- made us consider using the technique in situations we hadn’t been using it in
Apart from these practical things listed, the workshops made us rethink the value of expressing ideas in visual ways within the Co-op – a huge organisation going through transformation.
Here’s why sketching is super useful.
1. Sketching can help us communicate more clearly
Often, there’s a lack of clarity within large teams. It’s not necessarily someone’s fault, it’s just sometimes hard to avoid Chinese whispers. However, sketching means there’s less room for misinterpretation.
Colleagues will have different learning styles, they’ll interpret things in various ways and they’re likely to communicate the same thing differently. Having something visual means there’s something tangible everyone can point to, to explain things clearly to a wider team or stakeholders. They’re showing the same thing, not their interpretation of what they heard days (or even weeks) before.
Of course, there’s something to be said for matching the level of detail in your sketch to whoever you need to convey your idea to. An abstract, visual metaphor help explain something technical to a colleague whose role isn’t technical, but if you need to talk through a webpage layout with a developer, you’ll need to include more detail.
2. It’s a quick, cheap and collaborative problem solving technique
Articulating a complex problem or idea can be tricky and sometimes, sketching it will help. However, being ‘good at drawing’ isn’t a prerequisite for giving sketching a go. Sketching has a low barrier to entry – it’s not about creating perfect works of art, it just needs to capture the spirit of what you’re trying to communicate.
Because we can sketch so quickly and cheaply, sketches can be easily iterated. We can also scrap them completely without feeling like we need to commit to anything.
3. It’s less about ownership, more about collaboration
When we’re working with people who aren’t used to working in an agile way, sketching could be a good way to introduce a more flexible way of thinking. It echoes the idea that nothing’s ‘final’ or ‘perfect’.
Teams can consider a problem and sketch ideas around it within seconds. Some will be potential solutions, some won’t. Either way, the quick pace helps us stay focused on the problem, and with each iteration we get closer to the most feasible solution. The constant discussion while various team members sketch makes the activity really collaborative.
Sure, it was the Design team that attended Eva’s sketching workshops but very few of us were super confident sketchers at the beginning of the session. Sketching isn’t a skill that should be owned by designers or even by a Digital team but it’s a technique we’d encourage all team members from Digital, policy, legal to get involved in. There’s value for everyone in it because it’s something we can use together to create visual interpretations of a problem or idea. This helps the whole team have a shared understanding which we believe could only be a positive thing for team morale.
Try it yourself
Here are 5 tips to change your note taking with sketching. You can watch Eva-Lotta’s video on the same thing too.
Louise Nicholas and Ciaran Greene