Sketching Ideas and the Future

My fascination with sketches and white-boards is a perpetual target for jokes and comments from friends, family and colleagues. We could be discussing the most complex bit of business or systems architecture …. or just trying to agree upon a decision criteria to choose the new television for the living-room… Boxes, Circles, Arrows and 2×2 Matrices will start appearing on convenient surfaces at hand – mostly in color if I can manage it (4 colors are best, in my opinion)!

I view my impulse to sketch as a fairly non-hazardous idiosyncrasy – as long as the people around me are willing to be patient while I try to get everyone (and my understanding) literally on the same page. Most of the time we end up with a more focussed discussion, a much clearer understanding and a more comprehensive action-plan, solution or whatever was the goal of the gathering. Sometimes, people run for the hills!

Sketching works for me and I use it as a crutch/tool for thinking all the time. So, I was delighted to find from the Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research that I am following in the traditions of good designers. I have just read his book, ‘Sketching User Experiences’, and came away impressed by his thesis that to create a practical view of the future you need to ‘sketch’ out relevant pictures for all users who you hope would participate in that future.