Pencils Before Pixels: A primer in hand-generated sketching

Drawings and sketches can be powerful and persuasive representations of ideas, events, sequences, systems and objects. As part of a larger collaborative design process, hand drawing can serve as a key method for thinking, reasoning and exploring opportunities, yet inherently differs from wire-frames and conceptual models. Innately, interaction designers employ a variety of methods for representing ideas and information, both internally in a cognitive sense, and externally in the devices we employ to record, share and reflect…

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Bernhard Ferro

Mit Interaktionsdesign und User Centred Design habe ich seit mehreren Jahren zu tun (seit meinen Tätigekeiten für ORF ON, Swarovski, Creative Media und USECON). Persönlich finde ich simples und schönes (Interaktions)Design einfach spannend.

5 thoughts on “Pencils Before Pixels: A primer in hand-generated sketching”

  1. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop regarding “Paper Prototyping”. The output was amazing, when you put 3 or 4 interaction designer on one table, and let them handicraft and sketch prototypes and then test these paper prototypes. Really awesome.

    (Think I’ll post something about the workshop in the next few days 🙂

    One of the main statements was, that sketches or paper prototypes offer more feedback, because they don’t look so “ready-made” yet and users are not “afraid” to say what they don’t like.

  2. i agree with you erhard. my personal experience on sketching with pencils and papers is that you can easily and quickly dive into the heart of interaction design – giving tasks, models, scenarios a first face without being distracted by handling complex software tools.
    the main benefit for me is, that you get QUICK first results to discuss and communicate with others to start an iterative process.
    you mentioned paper prototyping. it´s interesting how bill buxton distinguishes between sketching and paper prototyping: (… though i am personally not sure how to distinguish between sketching and paper prototyping!)

    for bill buxton…
    a sketch is: a prototype is:
    – evocative – didactic
    – suggest – describe
    – explore – refine
    – question – answer
    – propose – test
    – provoke – resolve
    – tentative – specific
    – noncommittal – depiction

  3. Hm, interesting … I already ordered the book yesterday, so maybe I’ll be able to find out more in the next few days 😉

    > get QUICK first results to discuss and communicate
    > with others to start an iterative process

    Yes, exactly. For my opinion it’s important to “keep the hurdle low”. When I use paper it does not look like “that huge amount of work” and I have the feeling everything goes a bit faster. Normally it takes several days to create a e.g. HTML prototype. When you test it, of course it’s not that easy to change things again. Not only from a technical point of view but also from a ‘psychological’ point 😉 Paper does not have this effect for me so far.

  4. Hi Erhard,

    long time not seen 🙂

    I just wanted to say that I like the concept of this paper prototyping too. When I worked for my last company we created a video where we tried so present our software with this kind of techniquice.

    If you go to you have to spend one or two minutes than you will see what I mean.

    In addition to the advantage of getting real feedback from the users they are involved very soon in the software-creation process so that they are really involved and the software you create is their “baby”, too.

    Do you know if there exists any software for creating such paper-prototype?

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