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At Rocketship we like to say “paper is cheap”. Getting ideas on paper is faster and more cost effective than the downstream steps of prototyping and tooling. The stack of sketches shown above is from just one of our designers over the last two years and is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t include digital sketches either. At our studio, every vertical surface is plastered with sketches which gives us the opportunity to see them throughout the week and inspire new ideas.

But why sketch at all? Couldn’t you just jump right into CAD and whip out a model and be done? It’s tempting, but we’ve found that jumping ahead can short-circuit the design process. Not only do designers tend to limit their thinking to what they can model quickly, but they also lose the ability to generate a wide range of ideas as quickly. With sketching you don’t need fancy software or tools and that simplicity allows the designer to focus on what’s most important: the design.

Sketching provides two critical elements of the design process.

  • First, sketching allows ideas to take shape and mature quickly. A mental image can initiate a sketch but the process of putting the idea on paper allows it to evolve and take on a life of its own. A good designer will step out of the way to see what grows on the page.
  • Second, sketching allows designers to communicate their ideas with others. Someone that can’t communicate their ideas is no better than someone without any ideas.

So next time you feel tempted to jump to the end, consider sketching first and see how much progress you can make on paper.