"Sketching" ideas

"Sketching" ideas


Quickly turn thoughts into tangible ideas that communicate clearly with visuals

Reading Time

5 mins

Activity time

20-60 mins

What is this for? Ever misinterpret an idea from a teammate or leader? It's frustrating and costly. This approach encourages visual communication to eliminate those situations. It's a clearer more effective way to communicate and faster in the long-run too. Mindset and core principles Most importantly, you need to try getting visual. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. *Don't worry, you do not have to be a creative artist! Every person is capable, we just lack creative confidence.

Step 1: Organize your ideas

The goal here is to get started and find a catalyst to help ideas start to form. You can start with a small idea you already have or some existing notes or keywords. Here are some ways to do this step:

  • Set a timer for this step (e.g. 10 mins)
  • Reflect back on notes, customer insights, goals, and other inspiring project items
  • Write some notes to start to organize your thoughts and information.
  • "Highlight" or choose the things that stand out most to you on your page of notes. Things that could be key for ideas and solutions. Don't worry about if it's right. Just make your findings more useful to pull from.
  • Try and use some type of visual representation - arrows, icons, etc.


Step 2: Explore variations

Now, you really just want to start "trying things on" (no need to share these!). Start pulling highlighted pieces of information from your notes and turn them into opportunities that solve the initiatives problems. Use visuals... and if helpful, words.

Keep going! Take those components and put them together in new and different ways. Bend, Blend, and Break some of your early ideas to generate new ones.

Here are some additional prompts to help you explore more quickly When you think you're got it all:

  • Set a timer again to give the activity some boundaries (you can always extend it if you need more time)
  • Start scribbling and making your ideas and thoughts visual
  • Scribble multiple ideas, and variations of ideas
  • Get weird! Take an idea and do something unexpected to it.
  • Think of how ______ would accomplish your challenge. What would it actually look like? (e.g. Disney, Apple, Amazon)
  • Think of the experience that people would have with it. It's not just a solution, it's experienced from beginning-end.

Step 3: Bring key ideas to life

Look back at your "exploration". What stood out to you? How can you bring it into a single idea, a bigger concept, or a storyboarded experience? Be more selective.

There are a lot of ways to bring an idea to life. For example:

  • A concept sketch or poster
  • A slide with icons, shapes, images, and text
  • Role-Play. Act it out!
  • Make it tangible. Find existing objects or craft things together
It's never a bad idea to create more than one sketch and it's never too early to get feedback or iterate.
A concept sketch
A concept sketch
A bunch of sketches used to help design this very Toolkit!
A bunch of sketches used to help design this very Toolkit!

Step 4: Get feedback & revise

You're now equipped to learn! You can take these ideas (or prototypes!) and bring them to others for input, experimentation, or test.

  • Take your sketch to a couple of people for feedback
  • Tell them you're "trying to find holes" in the idea (when you tell people you want "feedback" they usually feel nervous to say anything negative)
  • Try not to "explain" the idea too much but let them read and look at your sketch
  • Get them to ask you questions (their questions will tell you a lot about your idea)
  • Write notes to collect the feedback
  • Do a quick revision of your sketch: What would you add, remove, change to make it more clear, more valuable, more convincing?

Group idea sketching?

This activity can be done solo, but it's even more powerful when multiple people sketch different ideas to solve the same challenge. You can try doing a sketch yourself first. And try running with 3-5 others when you need to come up with ideas for a team or project!

Try it now

Take a simple topic like, "better coffee drinking experience".
Pick a few aspects to focus on, right them down.
Put pen to paper, doodle a simple solutions... Now more! Get weird with your ideas.
Choose one to clean it up, so you can better describe it to someone else!

Additional Resources

Recommended reading
Additional Resources
Related workshop activities