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Letting Your Franken-Flag Fly

By Kristen Cromer on June 26, 2012

If you are hanging around the Think Brownstone team and happen to utter remorse over your lack of sketching skills, you will likely hear one of us retort with “Yes you can. Everyone can sketch.”  The phrase was directed at me when I showed reluctance to produce and share sketch notes from conference sessions.

In previous positions, I used my rudimentary drawing skills with abandon, creating paper prototypes of educational games, with complete “interactive” workflows of colored pencil-drawn buttons and screen overlays on paper cutouts. I was inspired to use this design method after a graduate school interface design class whose required materials included only newsprint paper and crayons. I never worried about how straight the lines were or if my handwriting looked cool, because the purpose had always been mainly to support my own thought process and to work out ideas in a quick and easy way.

I dubbed these hand-drawn efforts “Franken-frames” and “Franken-sketches” because they were comprised of multiple scraps of paper, each piece representing an element of the screen, all arranged precariously on the floor (as I hoped the wind wouldn’t gust through the window and no one would walk past too quickly). This technique evolved as I found that i didn’t have the patience, time, or consistency in my drawing abilities to continuously redraw screen elements over and over. I also never knew exactly where screen elements should be placed without having these little puzzle pieces to shuffle around on the “screen” (i.e. a blank sheet of paper that served as my background foundation).

Surely, though, I couldn’t reveal my kindergarten-style pencil drawings and crafting activities with our team of skilled artists at Think Brownstone, many of whom produce sketches and illustrations that are both beautiful and precise (and often comical, as many of our blog post illustrations show). But I got over that. At some point, I decided to let my Franken-flag fly and I sat on the floor of the Think Space with paper, pencils, and scissors, crafting away.

I’ve found that while my drawings and craft-style sketches can sometimes be a source of amusement to the team,  there’s no better way to communicate an idea than through imagery. Besides, the good-natured ribbing only contributes to a fun, creative, and productive design discussion. I’ve also been inspired by other members of our team, who, like me, are not formally trained or naturally talented in the fine arts, but present fantastic ideas with their own style of sketching. In a recent design session with the Think Brownstone gang, each team member came to the table with varying styles, approaches, and personalities in their drawn ideas. There was no judgement of artistic abilities, only spirited discussion of the thoughts presented.

Next time you find yourself reluctant to reveal your ideas through sketching, try letting YOUR Franken-flag fly! In the design process, it’s more important to illustrate your ideas than to preserve your artistic ego.