Sketchnoting; Interview with Eva-Lotta
With our Sketching for Sketchnoting and Visual Thinking workshop with Eva-Lotta approaching fast (held on 26th March; London) I wanted to get to know Eva a little better; find out what lured her to London, the benefits of sketching and where we should use this in our day to day. Enjoy…
Why did you decide to move to London and how does the industry differ from your homeland, Germany?
I moved to England for Love; I was living in Paris when I fell in love with an Englishman and after a few years of long distance relationship it was time to move. Career-wise it turned out to be a great decision as well. The market for UX is more advanced in London than the rest of Europe: There is more opportunity to do work; people seem to be more sold on the idea of User Experience so you can get on with the project rather than trying to convince people of its importance.
What do you typically use to sketch with and how do you use this in your day to day?
My mantra is ‘any pen is better than no pen’. The material is use secondary, you don’t need specialist equipment. Sketching is a great way to order your thoughts in a less rigid way, getting things out onto paper so you can make sense of them visually. It is also a great way to help you communicate with others. Words require that the reader uses their imagination to interpret what they are reading whereas visuals are more concrete.
Analogue Vs Digital and why?
You can use tablets to sketch directly into the computer though I just don’t feel that technology is there yet. Even with a stylus the input is not precise enough and there always seems to be a small lag. I’m sure this will be solved in a few years’ time, but for now, pen and paper still work better for me. The other advantage of sketching the old-fashioned way is that you are not depended on any gadget, software or a power supply. It can be quite an empowering feeling to know, that whatever happens you can still get your point across with just a pen and a piece of paper.
What if you aren’t comfortable or very talented with just a pencil in hand?
Everybody can sketch; we sometimes need a little nudge to get started the right way. At school, we all learned to write, which is basically the same as ‘sketching’ letters. Sketching anything else is very similar, it is just about combining simple shapes, no matter if you form letters, objects, people, dinosaurs or anything else.
The ‘Sketching for Sketchnoting and Visual Thinking’ workshop starts off slowly, gradually moving through exercises and practicing different techniques so you can attend even if you think you can’t sketch at all. If you already use sketching in your day to day then this course is a way for you to refine your skills and an opportunity to move your sketches beyond boxes and arrows and pick up some valuable skills for storyboarding and visual explanations.
Why Is Sketching an important UX/design skill, what role does it play?
As a designer it is vital that you can express yourself in a visual way. It helps to share ideas and communicate on a daily basis in a more engaging and clear way. Our audiences are consuming things in a visual format more and more every day and therefore expect to receive information visually. As visual experts we need to be able to express our ideas quickly and effectively and sketching allows us to do this.
Apart from yourself who do you find gets most value from your sketches?
When I do sketchnotes at conferences, it’s mostly me who gets the benefit by being able to remember the key points of the talk. I have used my notes in the past though to report back to my team after being out at a conference and the notes have proven very useful to give a summary of a talk. The great thing about sketching is that it is a very transferable skill. I can use the same skills practiced while sketchnoting to summarize meetings and workshops with a group at a whiteboard, to create visual explanations of concept and even to do simple storyboards of user scenarios. Once you start communicating visually through sketching it just becomes like another language you are fluent in, like talking or writing, that you can use in many situations
Can you give an example where Sketching has produced a quicker outcome compared with other techniques?
Sketching is a very quick and cheap technique that allows you to explore a lot of ideas and options very quickly early on in the design process without investing too much time into creating elaborate documentation or advanced prototypes. Often, a quick sketch is also the most effective way to explain an idea. Instead of talking for 5 minutes, I can make a little image in 30 seconds that gets the point across even better.
I had several situations, especially in agile projects, where you need to think on your feet and don’t have time to make fully fledged wireframes and documentation before the developers start working. Things get developed and refined as you go along and being able to express my thinking through simple sketches proved very valuable to collaborate in these fast paced environments.
What do you believe is the benefit of sketching on business output?
Well, for me, sketching is a fundamental skill designers should have. It makes us more efficient and confident thinkers and communicators. If you have a team of people who can develop and communicate ideas quickly and confidently, the chances are good that the quality of the work will be better and the process will run smoother with less misunderstandings and unnecessary iterations.
Who and why would you recommend sketching as a form of communicating ideas?
Working in a visual industry there is no excuse not to use visuals to communicate. It makes your message clearer and more engaging. As designers, we should be fluent visual thinkers and communicators and sketching is the most basic technique to master. But also beyond the profession of design, I’d argue that anyone benefits from being able to express themselves visually. It is becoming more and more important to be visually literate, so picking up some basic skills is a good idea for anyone who needs to get problems, ideas and solutions across.
Lastly, how do you feel about Etch-a-Sketches?
Haha… Growing up in Germany I didn’t discover Etch-a-Sketches until I came to London. It’s a bit less straight forward than a pen, I’d say. If anyone can do a decent sketchnote on one, I will bake them a cake!!