Written by Paul Kaita, Senior Project Assistant, Master of Education, Higher Education
The design thinking process is never straightforward. In fact, it’s usually a bit messy. Paul shares how he uses sketching to prototype ideas, share them with others and refine along the way.
In any work, there is beauty in the process and being okay with not always needing to present a final polished product in order to receive feedback. Sharing an idea at the beginning stage is transformative, and input from others can create the vision of the idea.
Comfort with a Messy Process
In my role as Senior Project Assistant, I support our wonderful communications team. One moment I often reflect on is when we designed a project icon in its final digitized form. I shared it with the leadership team, but the icon did not resonate. We spent many hours trying to get it to the stage where I deemed it completed and off my checklist. However, what I learned from this moment is that I put too much pressure on myself to get to a presentable stage and meet the deadline, rather than creating a thoughtful and intentional icon. I had to remove this fear that my work needs to be perfect in order to receive feedback. When a person looks into my process, I feel that my process improves, which results in the final product becoming surprisingly better than I would have thought was possible.
Sketching in Design Thinking
For me, being comfortable in sharing my rough drawings and unfinished ideas has empowered me to feel confident in my abilities as a designer. Sketches are extremely valuable in sharing a quick idea that communicates a concept (Hoffman, 2020). It provides a window into the designer’s mind that sparks dialogue and allows us to talk about what we are seeing. In design thinking, the double diamond concept explains the power of divergent and convergent thinking, as a method in which ideas are ideated, refined, and developed into the final product (Fleury & Richir, 2021). Divergent thinking demonstrates all ideas are valuable and convergent thinking enables a deliberate idea selection to be meaningful. Drawings go through this method of thinking, capturing authentic ideas that are powerful, confusing, surprising, exciting, ugly, and beautiful.
Unrefined is Okay
Since I completed my undergraduate studies in architecture, in my mind, I had this expectation I should be an amazing artist, sketcher, and drawer. What held me back from sketching is that thoughts telling me my drawings “aren’t good enough to show” or that I am “embarrassed for anyone to see my bad drawings.” I’ve had this mindset that my sketches need to be perfect. But they aren’t meant to be perfect. They are meant to be scrappy, rough, and undefined. These sketches aren’t a reflection of my creative and technical abilities because I know I can draw well when I am given hours to polish it. I have learned about myself that input from others allows me to become a better designer, educator, and overall human being. This makes me even more excited to share my ideas with the world.
Sketching for the Future
The possibilities are endless with sketches and what I love about them is that they can be turned in any direction. Like a sketch, my life has gone in many different directions, and the final product of my life is a culmination of the many sketches illustrating who I am today. Anyone with a pencil and a piece of paper can use their drawing skills to create something inspiring.
Fleury, S. & Richir, S (2021). User-Centered Innovation Methods: Design Thinking, Double Diamond, Lean UX and Time to Concept. (2021). In Immersive Technologies to Accelerate Innovation (pp. 67–81). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119887294.ch4
Hoffmann, A. R. (2020). Exploring beliefs and practices about sketching in higher education and in the design profession. In Sketching as Design Thinking (1st ed., pp. 155–167). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429508042-6