4 Reasons Sketching is Important

Sketching is an important part of the design process. Think of the design process as a funnel. The wide part of the funnel is the starting point and the narrow part of the funnel is the focal point. This funnel can be divided into multiple phases of design; Conceptual, Validation, Iteration, and Detail Design. Each phase of the process requires sketching at various degrees. Here are four reasons we believe sketching is so important to the design process.


The first phase of the design funnel is the Conceptual phase. During this phase there are many ideas that come from yourself, coworkers, and clients. You need to get these ideas down on paper quickly so you and can begin to validate them. Modern CAD software makes quick work of design but sketching on paper, a whiteboard, or a tablet is much faster than sketching in a CAD program. Time is money and you do not want to be spending time in a CAD program working on an idea that will never make it out of the Conceptual phase.  

Able to Show Intent

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true here. You don’t have to be an artist to create a sketch that shows intent. Often, a very crude sketch can show intent better than paragraphs of text. Being able to show intent allows you to sell your idea to a client.

Free from Constraint

One reason we don’t immediately jump into a CAD program to begin design is that there are too many constraints. Sketching on paper allows you to remain free from having to make sure your geometry is fully defined in a CAD program just to see a conceptual idea. It also keeps you from getting into the Detail Design thought process. You don’t want to be thinking about whether something is 1/4″ or 3/8”. Save that thought process for after you’ve already validated an idea and have begun your CAD drawings.

Easy Collaboration

We have yet to attend a design review meeting where nothing was sketched. No matter what phase of the design process we are in, collaborative meetings bring new ideas to the tables that need validation. That validation begins with a sketch. Sometimes we will sketch directly onto a drawing or there are times where we will lay tracing paper over a drawing and sketch on that. Whiteboards are used heavily during collaboration meetings as it allows a person to quickly show intent of an idea to the group.

Sketching Tools we use at ABM

Everyone at ABM has their preferred method of sketching. Some like to use tablets with drawing apps, some like to use a dry erase board, and some like the traditional route of using paper and pens. We created custom graph paper that helps us keep our sketches looking clean. Click here to download the graph paper we use. We have grids, dots, and isometric sheets. 

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