Tag Archives: explain ideas

Use sketching to make yourself understood

In my job I am required to explain my thoughts and ideas to other people. I’m nothing close to a UI designer but I use simple sketching while explaining and it worked every time. 

A whiteboard is my best friend but paper, napkins, your white shirt and other people’s faces work just as well. 

When sketching is useful :

  • When explaining things to someone
  • While thinking
  • While planning (to take over the world)
  • While having sex, to explain to your lover what they should do to you

No special skills are required for sketching

Sketching is more like doodling than like drawing and anybody can do it.
If you can sketch a line and a circle then you can sketch anything.
Don’t believe me ? try this exercise :
  1. Open a web browser
  2. Sketch the web browser
  3. Ask a user interface designer/someone you think should be good at sketching to sketch the same thing
  4. Compare and observe that the results aren`t very different
  5. Mock the other guy for not doing a much better job than you

Words are not always enough

Descriptions can miss info&details, people can be bad at explaining what they mean etc.
Again don’t believe me?
Grab pen and paper and sketch this : 3 circles (small, medium and a big one). In one of the circles there are 3 apples.
Two of the circles intersect.
Now look here what picture I had in my mind
In my text description I did not mention which circles intersect, which circle contains the apples or that the apples are red. Oups!

How to sketch your idea

  1. Follow the logical flow/scenario of how your idea would work
    1. Example > if you sketch a “forgot password” then you sketch first the home page, then sketch how the user would access “forgot password” and only last you sketch your new idea of the “forgot password” functionality.
  2. Sketch the context in which your idea fits. Having the object or an image of the context in front of you helps
  3. Sketch first the known & existing things/functionality, in very general details
    1. Example > if you want a “forgot password” button then sketch a web browser and the general things found on the page
  4. Sketch your idea, while explaining it
  5. Your main point/focus should be sketched in more details than anything else, to have peoples’ focus on it

Here’s an example of a password recovery sketch.

General suggestion

  • Use A4 paper, not notebook(papers you can move around, put in different order)
  • Do not use colors (they distract people from the functionality. But can be used on important details)
  • Erasers, tippex and things that cover mistakes are useful
  • Apps like GeniusScan+ for iPhone can be helpful to upload your sketches online
  • Apps like Whiteport can be useful for showing scenarios and telling user stories

Shapes tips&tricks


  1. Put the pen down on the paper (start from a static arm position)
  2. Plan to end the movement after you ended the line
  3. Start to draw the line
  4. Lift the pen off the paper, but the arm movement continues a bit longer

Tip : For short lines use only fingers/hand. For long lines use full arm. 

Tip : Use a dotted line as separator or to show hidden objects.


If you want the arrow to point from A to B then sketch the line starting from B to A. 


  1. Sketch a square out of 4 lines
  2. Do not sketch with one continuous movement
  3. Start with the upper left corner

Tip : for squares with rounded corners just cut the corners with a line.


  1. Do a circle in the air before starting on paper
  2. Just like with lines, lift the pen off the paper but continue the movement

Text and alignment

  1. Sketch 3-4 thin rectangles close to each other
  2. Optional : sketch a wavy line inside the rectangles

Shadow and depth

  • Use to emphasize something
  • Use to show depth
  • Use to show something has a background
  • Draw tiny lines, close to each other around 2 sides of the object