As a Product Designer at Percolate with a background in architecture, I’ve seen many parallels between the two fields. In previous posts, we discussed the importance of Circulation and Program to both architecture and product design.
For the third post in the series, we’ll chat about hand-drawing, and learn how we apply architecture tools to product design at Percolate.
Importance of Hand-Drawing
In my first year of architecture school, I was required to produce all diagrams, sketches, and drawings by hand. Although this felt tedious at times, it taught me the value of sketching.
Architects are taught that there’s no better way to explore a design idea than with paper and a pen or pencil. Any degree of computer interaction can cause you to lose your train of thought. The time it takes to turn on your computer, open Photoshop, or even move the mouse, is enough time for the idea to get lost.
I must admit that in the beginning, sketching felt hard. I focused too much on the straightness of lines, or the proportionality of objects. I’m so thankful architecture school forced me to practice. As with many things, the goal of practicing sketching is not to become “perfect” but to become more comfortable. The more comfortable you are with sketching, the easier it is to focus on relaying the idea, rather than the act of drawing.
Architecture school teaches you to use a set of tools for sketching and drafting buildings. You learn to begin sketching with a gridded cutting mat and trace paper. Here are some key reasons why:
There’s no way to draw buildings at 1:1 scale. As a result, architects learn to draw so that 1 inch on the drawing equals an actual distance. For example, 1 inch may equal 10 feet in real life. Drawing with semi-transparent trace paper on a 1 inch gridded mat makes it easy for architects to draw to scale.
Unlike architects, product designers have the luxury of drawing at 1:1 scale. Recognizing the size of a screen in inches, then drawing on a 1 inch cutting mat is a useful way for product designers to draw at scale early in the design process. This is important because it allows designers to more easily test design patterns and components.
Within buildings, many design elements repeat, such as stairs which carry through from from floor-to-floor. When sketching, the semi-transparency of trace paper makes it easy for architects to layer drawings and trace common elements.
Similarly for product design, when drawing sequences of screens, it’s valuable to sketch a design, then overlay a new piece of trace paper and carry through consistent elements such as navigation.