(Guest writer: Karina Sokolava)
Within the field of product design, ability to represent your ideas by using effective visual methods such as sketching opens doors for better communication between designers and clients. Designers find that using sketching is an efficient way to speed up the process of developing ideas in the real life.
There are times where sketch can express more than words and you get an instant understanding of a concept. Sketches are useful for designers who work in groups and sketches can deliver easy and fast way to brief an idea to others.
This article will introduce the main guidelines to product sketching that are useful to designers who just started the journey to product design. These few main steps will show that it is not that difficult to be good at product sketching.
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You have to love it
To be skillful in something, it requires a lot of effort and time which is not an exception when it comes to product sketching. The most important thing to know before you start sketching is to actually understand whether you are really interested in this subject.
You have to feel excitement and joy once a pen/pencil is in your hands. There will be times when only love for sketching will keep you going through rough days.
Material and Equipment
Product designers depend a lot on materials they use for creating sketches. By choosing appropriate equipment it is possible to express your ideas in the best way and create a visual connection of your product with clients.
There is no need to buy expensive materials in order to create magnificent sketches. Even with a one grey marker, professional designers can produce breathtaking art pieces. A basic equipment is to have three grey markers that are 20 % away from each other.
For example, 10%, 30% and 50 % markers. It is enough to have three primary color markers – yellow, blue and red. If you have a budget to buy more markers choose secondary colors like green and orange. Also, don’t forget to buy a black marker.
The most popular marker brands for product sketching are Copic Markers, Prismacolor markers and Letraset markers. You will also need some black fine liners and ballpoint pens for contours. The best thing is to experiment yourself and find the right pen that works for you.
Get a sketchbook
Look around and sketch such as what you see and breathe around you. Use a pen because the advantage of a pen is that it cannot be erased and you have to start a new page. Keep in mind that everything you sketch should preserve not edited.
You can always turn the next page and start sketching again. Soon, you will notice that you are starting to sketch freely and without thinking too much into it. Take a look at this book written by Richard Brereton – “Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators & Creatives”. You will see that a sketchbook doesn’t have to be boring.
Perspective – What is that?
In order to create realistic sketches, the most important thing is to know what a perspective is and how to use it. A good perspective drawing gives the impression of something that is normally perceived by the eye, it looks “natural”.
Perspective in dictionary means the reproduction of something that is three-dimensional and is transmitted in a two- dimensional plane. There are several types of perspective drawings: one point perspective, two point and three point. Two point perspective is most used in product sketching because it creates enough readable product concepts.
Read more about perspective and how to construct it here
A Right Position Of a Pencil
A secret for the ability to draw long straight lines, is hiding in a way you hold a pencil/a pen. And, usually, the first skill that beginners have to obtain, is to learn how to draw a straight line without a ruler.
Drawing with a wrist will create only short and uneven lines on a paper, but with an elbow you are able to draw long lines.
Start with a simple geometry
Do not expect to sit down and create a masterpiece right away. At the beginning, start to draw different shapes – squares, triangles, rectangles, and ovals. You may ask, why waste time on simple shapes if most of the product forms are complex?
The answer is that everything can be broken down into shapes. For example, an iPod nano is made of two rectangles, two circles.
- Process sketches – The main purpose is about understanding an assignment. There are more writing that sketching. A focus is examining problems and analyzing the contest.
- Ideation sketches – Sketches that are created by designers while developing an idea of a product. Mainly roughly made and without details.
- Explanatory sketches – Created to explain function, shape and structure of a design concept. These are sketches presented to a client. Readable to everyone.
- Persuasive sketches – Finishing sketches that are usually created in digital softwares such as CAD-programs, Adobe Photoshop and others. Detailed and colorful to influence audience and sell a design concept.
Shadows appear on objects in areas where the lighting is blocked or indirect. Before creating shadows it is important to choose a direction where the light source will come from. There are two main shadows that are typically drawn – Sunlight, and Cast shadows.
A cast shadows should be big enough to emphasize the shape of an object, but it shouldn’t be the main subject in a sketch. It also brings an illusion of depth to your sketches. Keep it simple and fast. If it looks good and the object is in the main focus, then you have done it right.
For technical explanations of shadow construction take a look at this website
Importance of details
Adding details to sketches, provides vital information for clients and other designers. Details can indicate the overall size of an object. Also, it creates more realistic look of a product you are creating. It is all about details when everything comes in one piece.
Take time to explore some everyday objects. Do they have buttons, try to understand why there are rubber, metal pieces on particular places.
Exaggerate the form
A design concept sketch is supposed to show a visual appeal of a product to users. It basically means that details are often exaggerated to present the best of the product character.
Elements describe product itself and that is why they must be enlarged in order to emphasize these details. Even in cartoons you often see big noses, ears, lips because these details show the unique character of a person.
Remember rendering expert Mark Kokavec releasing his How to Draw Figures book? Now another industrial designer, this one from down under, is spreading the sketching gospel in book form. This one focuses more on hardcore ID sketching:
Projecet founder and Canberra-based industrial designer Tom Skeehan runs Skeehan Studio, which focuses on commercial furniture, lighting and product design. His book, Sketching Process, has already been successfully Kickstarted with $15,858 pledged on a $9,980 goal. But Skeehan is hoping, in the final 17 days of the campaign, to hit $50,000 in pledges; should that happen, he'll use the money to build an online instructional sketching platform.
Speaking of online instructional sketching platforms, don't forget to check out our own sketch-tastic videos by Michael DiTullo and Spencer Nugent.
Fun fact: If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and draw circles by moving your pen clockwise, when you try doing the same in Australia, your hand goes counterclockwise.
I’m a lapsed industrial designer. I was born in NYC and figured I’d die there, but a few years ago I abandoned New York to live on a farm in the countryside with my wife. We have six dogs.
Whether you’re a new student looking to learn or a seasoned professional wanting to touch up your skills, books can help. Many great minds have put pen to paper, writing inspiring books for industrial designers. Some are written specifically for product designers while others are more general in nature.
To stay inspired is to be open to new ideas. Just looking at examples isn’t going to help you create your best designs. Which is why it’s good to read all types of materials, not just industrial design books. In this list, you’ll find some really inspiring stories, tips and tricks for product designers, and some more concrete product design books filled with practical tips.
Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love by Jon Kolko
Design expert Jon Kolko lets us in on the thing that successful companies like Nest use to their advantage. He gives advice on tapping into the empathetic part of your being to design products that resonate with people’s emotions. The key, he says, is not to add more features but to evoke a response and engage with the user.
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Every day we interact with plenty of designs that have the same functionality no matter here you are in the world, like a door or a phone. Professor Don Norman brings to attention these intuitive designs and asks us to think about what would happen if someone messed with them. Have you ever come across a door you couldn’t figure out how to open? You won’t think about product design the same way after reading this.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
While not about industrial design, Steve Krug gives some timeless advice on designing intuitively. Web designers swear by this book. It’s a pretty short read with plenty of examples and a conversational, fun tone.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
You might not have heard the name, but you’ve probably heard that quote before. Ed Catmull is the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He has some great advice on how to foster creativity not only independently, but also in a team. It’s an inspiring and very useful read for creatives in leadership positions who want their team to generate the best ideas possible.
The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) by John Maeda
This is a pretty quick read, but crucial nonetheless. Jon Maeda gives us his 10 laws and three properties of product design, followed by examples and personal anecdotes. It’s filled with great advice and tips for designing with simplicity in mind.
Designing Design by Kenya Hara
Kenya Hara is a world class Japanese designer, have designed the opening and closing ceremony programs for the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. It’s a wonderfully written monograph outlining Hara’s thoughts on design and how he infuses Japanese culture into his work. In the first section of the book, he tells us how he would redesign daily products to improve functionality. It’s a must-read for any serious designer.
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler
Look no further than this book to broaden your design skills. Whether you’re a designer, engineer, or architect, you’ll find something useful here. It’s a cross-disciplinary reference of 100 different principles of design with plenty of examples of the principles being applied to modern examples.
Design (Tom Peters Essentials) by Tom Peters
A very short read filled with nuggets of wisdom related to design, leadership, and innovation. If you’re a product designer or even just work in the industry, you’d probably benefit from reading this. He lets you in on why he puts his emotions and passion behind his work. Prepare to be inspired.
The Creative Priority: Putting Innovation to Work in Your Business by Jerry Hirshberg
Jerry Hirshberg, founder and president of Nissan Design International, shares some of the things he’s learned while in the field. He reveals how he designed his organization around creativity rather than just using it as a principle of design. Perfect for the business-minded designers.
Designing Interaction by Bill Moggridge
While Bill Moggridge himself is an inspirational designer you should follow, this book isn’t really about him. He spends its entirety delving into other case studies, shining a light on other designers who’ve changed the way we interact with the world. The book includes interviews with Will Wright, the creator of The Sims; Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google; and the creators of the mouse and desktop. It’s illustrated with over 700 images and has inside interviews you won’t find anywhere else.
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward De Bono
By reading this book, you’ll level up your creativity. It’s about lateral thinking, which is the opposite of how we’re taught to think in school. We’re told to approach problems head on, but when this doesn’t work, what do we do? Edward De Bono is here to give you techniques to think laterally.
Process: 50 Product Designs from Concept to Manufacture by Jennifer Hudson
If you’re looking for guidance with the product design process, Hudson’s book can help. It looks at 50 domestic design objects and shines a light on the creative processes as well as the manufacturing work behind them. It includes in depth information about the projects and has colorful images and detailed sketches. The designs are all significant in their field, whether it be furniture, textile, or tableware.
Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals by Rob Thompson
This isn’t just a book with a few design tips. It’s a resource that all designers should have in their repertoire. It looks at the production techniques and materials that are affecting the design industry today. There are 1,200 photos and illustrations in the book to support the case studies, making it quite a read.
Product Design and Development by Karl. T. Ulrich
If you’re about to kickstart the product development process for your new invention, give this book a read first. It leans more on the technical side, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you may want to skip this one. There is some pretty valuable information though, ranging from marketing advice and design help to manufacturing and prototyping.
Managing the Design Factory: A Product Developer’s Toolkit by Donald G. Reinersen
Are you stuck in the product development pipeline? Looking for advice on how to finally get your product to the marketplace? This book is full of practical, useful tips that you can start putting to work for you right away. Rather than offering a set of rules, the tools he gives are applicable to your specific situation.
Presentation Techniques: A Guide to Drawing and Presenting Design Ideas by Dick Powell
While a bit dated, Powell goes over some drawing techniques that it pays to know. Even if you don’t practice manual sketching much, knowing the best-practices just in case will be an asset to your career.
Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers by Koos Eissen
A more updated book full of sketching techniques for product designers. It’s a great resource for learning the terminology behind industrial design sketching. There are also practical tips and tricks that can be applied to your everyday sketches.
Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Francis D. K. Ching
While an architecture book by nature, Ching does an excellent job at teaching the reader basic design principles. If you’re new to product design, this is a definite must-read as it details elementary design concepts and advanced principles. It’s a simple read full of practical tips you can use in every day life.
Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships by Gail Greet Hannah
Rowena Reed Kostellow was an industrial design teacher at the Pratt Institute. Her teachings have influenced the product design industry greatly. Through the book, you can learn what she has to teach. It’s an instructive book that allows students to follow along with Kostellow’s design exercises. There’s also commentary from Kostellow herself and examples of how her students used her teachings to become leaders in their field.
Basic Visual Concepts and Principles for Artists, Architects and Designers by Charles Wallschlaeger
This textbook-like book is full of exercises and informative information for designers and architects. It’s a pretty dry read, but if that doesn’t bother you, you’ll be able to learn the basics of design as well as advanced principles.
Hopefully you’re inspired to pick up one (or all) of these great books. They’re bound to help you along the way. If you happen to need help with the next step — engineering and manufacturing — Cad Crowd can help. We can connect you with the best engineers and manufacturing services in North America. Contact us for a free quote!
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The Industrial Designer's Guide to Sketching: Strategic Use of Sketching in the Design Process
In recent years, there has been a rapid growth of interest in the establishment of hybrid educational programs which merge design and engineering. Due to the condensed and multidisciplinary nature of this type of education, instruction in studio-based drawing must be intensified and communicated more efficiently. Two additional factors have redefined the need for conventional drawing skills as well: the domination of CAD-rendered drawings for detailed product depiction and the increased focus on product development collaboration. New textbooks which target communication and visual thinking through industrial design drawing have been hard to find until now. Nenad Pavels book assumes that a student has prior knowledge of the basics of form, perspective and shading. He presents a toolbox of techniques and instructions for how industrial designers can improve their hand-sketched visual communication. He also addresses diverse issues which a designer often confronts: product conception, aesthetics, construction, form and interface. The clear, practical and illustrative approach makes the authors points easy to implement in a short amount of time. This insures that it will be of interest to many related disciplines, including architecture and engineering, as well as being appropriate for the general public with an interest in skill-based design drawing.
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