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« Congratulations to Alex Bendiken, Slashdot Redesign Winner! | Main | Creating a Custom Moleskine Planner »

Sketching = Getting Real

ccp-sketch.01.gifThis week I came across Getting Real: An interview with Jason Fried, an intriguing article and interview by Khoi Vinh, Design Director, blogger at and founder of the design studio, Behavior.

In the interview, Khoi asks Jason Fried of 37signals questions about Getting Real, a process which involves small teams, agile development, and lots of iterations.

Mid-way through the interview I found this wonderful quote from Jason:

We also sketch on paper a lot — much more than we go into a program like Photoshop. Paper is fast, cheap, and low resolution enough to get ideas out without having to worry about the details too early on. Worrying about details too early can kill you, and paper helps you skip the details.

In Photoshop you worry too much about pixels and alignment and colors. On paper you can get rough ideas out quickly without worrying about all the stuff that just doesn't matter yet.

Like Jason, I'm a strong an advocate of using pen or pencil and paper sketches to think visually. I find sketching encourages me to explore more ideas more quickly and helps me resist the rigidity and limitations of the computer and software.

Putting pencil or pen to paper separates me from the distractions and ruts I sometimes get into on the Mac. Because it's physical, I find it relaxing, which I believe results in better design solutions.

Give it a try! Go forth, sketch and get real!

Reader Comments (5)


Thanks for your recent thought provoking insights about going back to paper and about using your Moleskine as a custom designed planner. I have started my own business recently and have found that my technology needs have now changed. Before I used a Palm TX and was constantly a slave to updating it to the latest and greatest software and also just to getting the darn thing not to crash all the time. I spent countless hours on maintaining it and tweaking it. Now as a small business owner and an event planner I cannot waste my time doing this anymore. So I sorta went retro and got a Palm Z22 based upon some other folks recommendations from various Palm sites as an attempt to "Getting Things Done."

The plus side of the Z22 is that the battery life is incredible and that I don't have to worry about losing my data if the battery completely dies. I also have stopped noddling around on my Palm and use it for the 4 essentials that made me use a Palm in the first place:

1) Address Book - easy to update and holds way more numbers then my Razr cellphone can2) Calendar - easy to see where I need to be and at what time3) Vindigo - a life saver since I live in New York City, invariably someone wants to go somewhere after a meeting or an event and I can find almost any place to eat, a Starbuck's, or an ATM to within a 1/2 mile of where I am4) Doesn't crash, rock solid!

I would highly recommend using Basecamp by Jason's company. I have been using it to put a conference together with a business partner and his associate. It has made communication much easier.

You and your readers may enjoy a podcast interview that my business partner did with Jason Fried that can be found at our website:

The almost hour long interview provides a great deal of insight into Jason's ideas and business philosophies.

I am a very visual person and found that a lot of time I would draw something for a client just so that they could visualize it themselves. None of the drawings I ever presented to client's were technically good, but they helped to illustrate things that sometimes people cannot figure out when you are in a meeting room and not able to be in the room where the event is actually going to take place. My drawings were effective enough for people to be able to think through a point they hadn't considered themselves, such as where do we place the 10 piece band in the room or on which side of the stage do we place the podium. That is why sketching has worked for me.


Laurence KoretStarlight Media Inc.Event Planner for Venture Voice Startup Workshop(917) 583-0225

May 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous
Well, that comment before was absolutely waste of time as well!! Did you want to advertise or what?As for the article, I do agree completely. PCs are great timesavers, but only when used properly. My electronic usage has decreased by time, when things got tough and time was running low. By now, whenever I have the choice between paper and PC I choose paper for many reasons. More visual space, usable anywhere, 'better contrast' LOL, and last but not least cheap and weightless..Cheers.
May 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKevin
Laurence, thanks for the comment and good to hear you've found a good PDA in the Zire 22. I also like the 22 for its simplicity and size. Getting things Done is an excellent book that has helped me greatly (even though I've only partially implemented the systems David Allen suggests).

I second your reccomendation of Basecamp, as I'm currently working with a client on a logo project using the tool � very elegant and simple, yet powerful.

Finally, it's good to hear you are sketching! Never worry whether the illustration quality matches a pro, since the whole idea is to share your thoughts visually. I recommend Dave Gray's Visual Thinking School for some nice excercises to try out:

Best of luck on the Venture Voice event! :-)

Kevin, Thanks for your comments! Yes, Laurence's comment did feature a link for his project at the end, but Laurence also had a good chunk of relevant, interesting commentary, which more than balanced out the plug IMO. :-)

I think anything has the potential to be a timewaster or saver, depending on the person using the tool. A paper planner can just as easily be tweaked to death � it comes down to me deciding where to draw the line on practicality.

Even so, I do feel paper allows a freedom that is still hard to replicate on the computer. Wacom tablets are close, but still not quite as fluid as pen or pencil on paper (not to mention less portable).
May 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
It is all about white boards for us.Our office has all the latest in notebooks and PDAs. But, everyone still carrys a spiral bound grid paper pad, and every office and hallway has white boards. We have yet to find the perfect scetch app for our notebooks that has the same feel as pen-on-paper. Several white boards have a digital feed for our notebooks to connect too... but it is slow and misses smooth strokes. So it is great for flow charts but bad for a quick sketch.Passing work aroung an office to share and get comments on means someone putting those great ideas into a digital form.

May 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGary
I am a using a paper planner for my Business daily routine ( Day Timers ) 2 pages per day format I have added a new item : no to do listI am still using my Treo 650 (personal).CheersChinchorrero

May 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchinchorrero

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