Developing Skills: Sketching to Improve Communication and Understanding

As product developers, we are always thinking about how we can continue to develop ourselves. By improving skills and sharing knowledge with each other, we become better designers, better developers and better team mates.

One of the most fundamental skills for anyone working within a team is communication. It’s a skill that we all use every day, when we speak to each other, to clients, to suppliers, so it seems too entrenched to change. How can we push ourselves to develop a skill that is so personal, familiar and subjective?

Communication often focuses on the verbal skills of speaking, writing and listening. Just as important, but much more conceptual, are the complementary skills of illustration and understanding. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines illustration as an example, picture or diagram that helps make something clear. The purpose of an illustration, like the purpose of communication in general, is clarity and understanding. If the other person doesn’t understand you, it’s as good as if you had never said it at all.

As part of every project, we need quick ways to express new concepts and abstract ideas. Visual tools, such as sketching, prototyping and model making are a more tangible way for people to understand and respond to ideas. To collectively improve our visual communication skills, we now and then host a series of sketching sessions. The first of four events happened last week. The aim for these sessions is to learn how to use sketching to make your ideas understood.  It’s only an introduction, as with any skill, sketching is something that takes consistent practice over time to improve.

Check back in with us next week for our follow up post where we will explore six practical tips you can use to help fast track your professional skills development. 

If you're interested in further developing your visual communication skills, take a look at some of these useful resources:

"The back of a napkin" by Dan Roam 
"Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers" by Roselien Steur and Koos Eissen   
The Sydney Community College offers drawing workshops for all skill levels throughout the year.

Erin Evanochko