Ugly yet organized sketching

As a side project at work, I’m currently slowly chipping away at a troublesome area in a legacy desktop application. I’ve done some group ideation (brainwriting) and some usability testing in this area, but I hadn’t had much of a chance to really “sink my teeth” into the interface.

My favorite way to really get to know an interface?


I love sketching because it turns half-formed ideas into tangible things, often exposing flaws that you never knew were there.

I just returned from a trip to Germany and Poland. Anticipating lots of waiting and planes, trains, and buses, I set a goal of 100 sketches over the course of the week.

I ended up with 43.

A little disappointing, but I think what I lacked in quantity I more than made up for in quality.

Now that’s some quality sketchin’!

No, not aesthetic quality. They’re definitely not the prettiest of pictures. However, I feel like I made a breakthrough when it comes to how I lay things out.

Number sketches for linking

As you can see in the example, I started every sketch with a number. I only really started doing this because I wanted to know how many sketches I had done, but it had the secondary benefit of allowing me to refer to each idea one at a time and “link” between sketches. It really forced me to keep my sketches and ideas organized.

This was an improvement over my previous sketching binges where I’d just fill up the page with multiple ideas then move on. It also allowed me to branch out and come back to ideas instead of having to choose one at a time.

Pros and cons

Each page starts with a brief intro and often a “Why”. The sad faces show the doubts that I had after creating the sketch. Often, I address these doubts in later sketches. Or at least I try.


Thanks to this slightly more organized way of sketching, I can see myself getting much more value out of my sketches. It’s sort of like writing code. If you don’t put a little effort into making it clear what you’re doing, it’ll probably be incomprehensible to your coworkers- actually, it’ll probably be incomprehensible even to yourself a few months down the road!


How do you sketch? Can you recommend any resources for improving my sketches? Bill Buxton is on my list but are there any others that I should know about? Give me a shout out @sgryzko and let me know!