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Entries in Sketches (67)


Illustration Friday: Capture

Happened to swing by the Illustration Friday site today, and was inspired to get out the pen and Moleskine sketchbook to participate. of the busy spring and summer I've had, It's been a while since I've posted an Illustration Friday sketch. In fact, it's been much too long since sketching in my Moleskine sketchbook.

The sketch for "Capture" on the right was not planned, but it evolved as my pen started touching the paper. I had the vague idea of drawing a ball being captured by some kind of crescent/claw shape, but beyond that, had no idea where I might go with this illustration.

As I looked at the claw and ball, I saw a scorpion/lobster/crab taking shape in the remaining blank part of the page, so I sketched out a body and curling tail.

Next came the feet, complete with Converse Hi-Tops, the lobster-like eyes popping out of the little guy's head and finally, the smile. The "Capture" text and outer shapes were added and filled in.

I've even chose a name for the little guy: Seymour The Space Scorpion

When I reviewed the drawing, I realized the outer shapes were "capturing" Seymour — a completely random, yet fun detail which completed the sketch. :-)


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!


The Sketch Kit Sketchtoon

Almost exactly month ago, I lost the first Moleskine I ever bought at the local shopping mall. I was hoping beyond hope that my little sketchbook might somehow turn up under the seat of my car, or be returned by a mall-walker. I've now had to face the facts: my little sketchbook is long gone.

Not coincidentally, my ink sketching has dropped off considerably ever since. I've found I like ink sketching because it's much riskier than pencil sketching. Once your pen hits the surface, you're committed to a sketch, baby.

Having accepted my Moleskine as lost, I bought a new Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook last week and have been sketching in it ever since. This morning, I decided to create a new sketchtoon featuring my normal Sketch Kit, shown below:

Mike's Sketch Tools

Bag: my kit is housed in my canvas Cafe Bag, which is a US Army surplus map case. It's small size and canvas construction make it light but tough. The Cafe Bag expands nicely to accommodate files, papers, books or other large items.

Books: a 6x8 Miquelrius squared sketchbook, where I do my pencil-based logo and web sketch work. I love the flexible cover and larger size. For ink sketches and sketchtoons like the one above, I carry a Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook, with thick, smooth paper stock.

Writing Instruments: I carry a Silver Pilot Dr. Grip Gel pen with 0.5 or in this case, 0.7 mm G2 Gel cartridge, or G2 plastic pen, and a FaberCastell E-Motion Pearwood mechanical pencil with 1.4 mm lead (thanks Fazal!). I especially like the thicker, softer HB lead for exploring shapes for logo design work I'm doing quite a bit of lately.

Misc: I'll often carry a small clear triangle for straight lines and a set of oval and circle drawing templates for perfect circles/ovals. Sometimes I'll bring a dedicated eraser if I'm planning a long pencil sketching session.

I like this Sketch Kit because it covers my needs, yet is small and light enough to take anywhere. I hope my sketch and description will inspire you to create a sketch kit of your own and go sketching! :-)


Designing the endo icon

Endo-v4_128x128.pngI'm very excited reveal my latest new icon design for endo, a syndicated feed reader developed by Adriaan Tijsseling. This new app approaches syndicated feeds as "streams" rather than the common "email app" approach most aggregators use.

The icon was developed in collaboration with Adriaan, the developer of blogging tool ecto and Flickr stream manager 1001, which I'd designed the icon for last year. While we worked out the new icon, I'd been under an NDA with Adriaan (as design director at MakaluMedia) but since endo has been released, I'm free to share. :-)

(Click on graphics below to see full sketches)

Initial Concepts v1
I began the project by writing out thoughts and sketching some initial ideas, and having designed the 1001 icon,endo-1.jpg felt that the icons might benefit from having a "family" feeling between them. So, when you look at the initial v1 sketches I did, you can see this quite clearly.

While the final icon veered quite a bit from the initial sketches, I like to point out that very often a designer must work through what is in their heads in order to progress to the next step — a bit like flushing out the immediate ideas to get at the deeper ideas.

Sketches v2
In the second round of sketches, I began exploring the idea of different shapes, endo-2.jpgshapes breaking planes and swirls of data surrounding shapes. As endo was to be different than other aggregator/readers because it treats feeds as "streams" I wanted to convey the idea of a stream of data — as chaotic swirl or plane.

While breaking a plane was an interesting concept, the more chaotic swirl appealed to both Adriaan and me, because it felt much more like the real net, with wild streams of feeds spinning out of control. Endo was to be the calm in the midst of this storm of data; helping its users wade through this swirling cloud.

Sketches v3
In my 3rd revision of sketches, I focused entirely on the idea of a swirling cloud of data, endo-3.jpgsurrounding various shapes. You can see in the larger sketch that circular swirl with a central "hub" containing a magnifying glass at the center of the swirl. This represented the application at the center, filtering good signal from the noise. These concepts were attractive to both Adriaan and I, though we both wanted to see one more round to finalize the concept before I went to Fireworks and Photoshop on the Mac.

Sketches v4
In this round, Adriaan had the idea to include the newly standardized Feed Icon, which is already used in endo-4.jpgFirefox (and will also be used in IE7), so I tried several icons with the Feed icon integrated. I tried a variety of angles, until in sketch E you can see the idea of having the feed icon appear in the central hub and also appear in the shadow below, since the central hub would be transparent (like a marble).

Once Adriaan and I saw sketch E, we were both in love. Adriaan gave the Ok to move to the Mac, and there, the new endo icon was born, using Fireworks to build the icon (with vectors and layers) and then exported in Photoshop, using the excellent IconBuilder 8 from IconFactory.

Only minor tweaks were needed to finalize the icon on the Mac and deliver the needed icon, and source files Adriaan needed to spruce up his endo application and the new Kula website.

I'm very pleased with the new endo icon; it's simple, different and I think conveys the concept of a feed aggregator sifting signal out of the syndication noise — just the idea Adriaan was trying to convey with his very different application. One commenter on the BWANA Weblog suggested the endo icon "has the best application icon since Shiira." which was flattering indeed. :-)

Thanks Adriaan for trusting in me to help on this project and all of his excellent collaboration. Working on this project was truly a pleasure!

If you're on Mac OS X and want a alternate way of deal with feeds, try out endo. It offers a very different approach, which may just suit your needs.

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Music-Driven Moleskine Sketches

Ok, for whatever reason, I'm on some sort of sketching roll this week. Rather than hold today's sketches back, I'd like to share them right away:

Underworld & Brazilian Groove Music Sketches

(click the image above to see an enlarged version)

Left page: A sketch generated while listening to the song Cups from an electronica band Underworld's live from the Fuji Music Festival in Japan. I learned about Underworld from a post on Dan Stout's Manufactured Environments weblog in 2004 and have been enjoying these driving beats ever since (thanks Dan!). As you can see the textures of the song were rich and layered. I tried to continuously draw and capture how the music made me feel: complex, moody, deep but fast paced with a little feeling of echo.

Right page: This was another music-inspired sketch, based on very different music style than Underworld. Inspiration here was provided by the tune Consolacao, from the Brazilian Groove compilation, by Bossacucanova (as suggested to me by Michael Ashby). You can see a dominant bass line, represented as ripples in water or sound waves. Around that are impressionistic sketches of other instruments: guitar, piano, and vocals drawn continuously. This song was warm and bright, with rich bass line and of course fascinating Portuguese vocals.

This is a fun exercise allows your mind to interpret your impressions of favorite music in a visual way. I highly recommend this technique, especially if you want to sketch but have no idea what to sketch. All you need is music, paper, pen or pencil and a few minutes to sketch.

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