Sketching is a very important tool for a designer. Not only is it possible to make visual records of existing designs, but it is also useful to work out new design ideas. A sort of visual brainstorming, to consider first thoughts in greater depth and refine initial ideas.
It can also be used to communicate design ideas to other people. Words on their own are not enough to describe an idea. In fact it can lead to confusion because what a description means in someone's mind might mean something quite different in someone else's.
Often designers begin to explain an idea and usually agree that it would be best if they'd sketch it. It then becomes very easy to see what they mean. For the same reasons, sketches are great to use when discussing a project with a client. It keeps matters clear and simple and never fails to impress.
Sketches do not have to be works of art. Their primary function should be informative and communicate design ideas. It is important to consider this point because I often see students who almost refuse to use sketches to help them develop and communicate their ideas because they do not have a lot of confidence in their drawing abilities. Often however, when they do produce sketches, they are good and very useful. So you shouldn't shy away from sketching.
Observational Drawing and Rendering
It is possible to develop sketching abilities using observational drawing methods. This simply means that you look and draw. Expect to make mistakes at first. As with most things, practice is the only way to learn and improve. The trick is to look properly, not to record what you think you see and not to record absolutely every single detail of an object, a mistake many beginners make.
Initially, you may want to practice from pictures, then move on to small objects around you and then to larger spaces. By keeping a sketchbook and adding to it regularly, you will not only quickly develop your ability to draw in 3D but also produce valuable visual records which will be useful in developing your own creative ideas.
Designers work with colours
. Adding colour to a sketch reinforces the design intent and helps visually clarify an idea. There are a lot of medium available for rendering, for example, coloured pencils, marker pens, pastels and watercolour. They can also be mixed together on the same drawing to great effect. Basic rendering techniques are easy to learn and will add dimension and dynamism to a sketch. It will also convey more information about the design.
As an example, look at the black and white sketch of a street above (click on the thumbnail to view a larger image). It's purpose was to produce a visual record of the area. However if colour had been used, more information - atmosphere, time of day, weather, materials, textures - would have been made available to the viewer. So colour is important to designers, even at the early stages of a design because it helps them include important considerations form the onset.
I sometimes see students setting themselves up in front of
a computer expecting to be able to develop their design ideas
using complex CAD software, without any sketches to provide
them with a clear direction of what their design might be
and no thoughts of scale or dimensions.
They soon realise that without working out their design first,
they won't be benefiting from the potential of working with
CAD and waste valuable time. It is therefore important to
understand that CAD is not a substitute for sketching for
CAD drawings require input of dimensions and more details
than required at this stage, while in sketches accuracy and
details are not what is important.
Sketching is a faster way to develop design ideas.
CAD doesn't allow for quick changes, especially when multiple
design ideas are to be considered.
Computers are not always available while pen or pencil sketches
can be produced on almost any surface. Many great ideas first
saw life on a restaurant paper napkin.
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