I’ve always preferred sketching UIs with an as-thick-as-I-can-find Sharpie over a thin ballpoint pen or finely sharpened pencil.
Ballpoints and fine tips just don’t fill the page like a Sharpie does. Fine tips invite you to draw while Sharpies invite you to just to get your concepts out into big bold shapes and lines. When you sketch with a thin tip you tend to draw at a higher resolution and worry a bit too much about making things look good. Sharpies encourage you to ignore details early on.
If you sketch, try a thick Sharpie next time. You may find you’re better able to focus on the concept and less on the drawing. That’s a good thing.
Fayeon 14 Jun 07
Can you guys recommend a good blog designer? I’m at work now, but when I take breaks, I sketch out my layout on scrap paper. I use the medium retractable sharpie. They’re great and since I’m not a great illustrator, the bold lines help me see what I do or don’t need.
Ryan Bergemanon 14 Jun 07
A good point — I’ve never really given it much thought. I’ll have to give a big-ol’ Sharpie a try next time I’m sketching.
(Is/was that a Highrise concept UI?)
Timothy Uruskion 14 Jun 07
This might also explain why white-boarding a concept can be so so fruitful.
Dr. Peteon 14 Jun 07
There’s definitely something more satisfying about that first version. I assume that’s only for your own use, though? I find client’s start to second-guess the $150+/hour consulting fees when I hand them something I sketched with a Sharpie :)
The other plus is that the broad strokes fill up space quickly, keeping you from going overboard on content. It’s a good way to force yourself to remember that you can only fit so much on a page.
ChrisFizikon 14 Jun 07
Oh for sure - if I can help it, I like to use a Whiteboard to sketch out site designs. Same reason - big bold dry-erase marker lines, not worrying about details.
I’ve got two whiteboards at my office with all sorts of prototype sketches on them that I have built things from.
Danon 14 Jun 07
Good call! I love sketching with a dull piece of charcoal rather than using a pencil for the same reason. It is a lot easier to get the whole composition down first and then to worry about the details.
Skylaron 14 Jun 07
Thanks for the advice! You guys are starting to sound like Dr. Phil.
JayCon 14 Jun 07
The problem with Sharpies is that they bleed. I recommend the Pentel “Sign” pens. Good bold lines, don’t bleed. Coming from the world of architecture, that is all we use.
We used a whiteboard for our office website. Layout page locations and content.
Noah Everetton 14 Jun 07
DCon 14 Jun 07
Just draw smaller.
Jon B.on 14 Jun 07
I do like the Sharpies….but how do you combat the unstoppable Sharpie bleed-through syndrome? This things can penetrate an entire stack of paper. :)
Mradon 14 Jun 07
Sharpies are more fun to draw with. Wait – maybe it’s just the fumes….
BigNerdon 14 Jun 07
Hmm. Looks like the front of an apartment building I once lived in.
I think it would be cool to have a web page designed as if it were drawn with a sharpie. You heard it here first.
JohnDon 14 Jun 07
My trick? Smaller paper. I keep a tiny notebook in my pocket.
Timon 14 Jun 07
-1 for sharpie bleed-through
Ryanon 14 Jun 07
I absolutely agree. I have an 8-pack of multi-colored sharpies, specifically for design. Using a ball-point, like you said, makes me worried about the tedious things like straight lines in a mock paragraph, or heaven forbid, actually writing real words!
Peter Cooperon 14 Jun 07
As above, a whiteboard is a great idea too. I tend to use thin pens for planning because I’m over concious about wasting paper (just how I was brought up!) .. so wasting an entire sheet of paper on a single idea freaks me out. A whiteboard would probably solve that.. or a tablet PC!
Scotton 14 Jun 07
this blog has officially jumped-the-shark
Colinon 14 Jun 07
My new favourite rapid-sketching tool is a box of crayons. Seriously, crayons. Sharpies bleed and stink; they can bother asthmatics, like myself.
Crayons are fun, cheap, come in lots of colours, and instill a sense of play (as in “I’m playing with some layout ideas”). I’ll take a box of Craoylas over the sharpies any day.
Tyson Calyon 14 Jun 07
I never thought of that Jason. Thanks for the tip. I can finally put that 25 pack of Sharpies from Costco to use.
BigNerdon 14 Jun 07
Try the Crayola twistables slick stix.
Ivanon 14 Jun 07
Yes, Sharpie is so wonderful, that its website can have broken rollover horizontal menus in Firefox. Thanks to … very important …. mysterious man in red dress :) Congrats and stay at pen.
Seanon 14 Jun 07
I agree with the smaller paper concept. Post it notes work great and you don’t get high from the Sharpie fumes. Not sure if this a good or bad…but still, smaller paper gives a similar result.
Eric Don 14 Jun 07
This is true. The sharpie really gives you a better idea of the volume elements will occupy. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at a site sketch and thought I needed more because it looked so blank, only to discover I had overestimated my space.
It also sums up the idea behind conceptualizing as well. Ideas at this stage need to be broad, save the details for later.
Jimmyon 14 Jun 07
Sharpie stock skyrockets as wanna be 37 signalers rush out to buy massive amounts of the pens!
Caleb Buxtonon 14 Jun 07
This, and the stakeholders definitely don’t think something is immutable when it looks like its drawn in crayons :)
Thats why I use china markers.
Brianon 14 Jun 07
I have always done most sketching and even note-taking with Sharpies. I have boxes from thick to thin - the only problem is finding paper that doesn’t let it bleed through! I couldn’t tell you how many sheets I’ve had to toss out because of bleeding.
Francis Wuon 14 Jun 07
Good post! After years of fussing over preparing nice sketches on graph paper, I have to say that this is a brilliant idea. Man, sometimes I really gotta give my OCD a break :P!
Tim Richardson 14 Jun 07
I am going to start throwing up UI sketches – and get sponsored by Sharpie, man. Or, was that what you were doing here? If you make team manager, you need to make a spot on the Sharpie UX Team for me.
Free pens, large format stickies, and team-only office-wear? What else?
Kristianon 14 Jun 07
I discovered one of my clipboards had the same surface as my dry erase board, and I use my dry erase markers on it to sketch out ideas.
I found it’s easier to let go of the bad ideas, and gives me an extra layer of internalization as I move it to something more permanent.
dannyon 14 Jun 07
have you taken a look at dConstruct 2007? use the bar at the top to walk through the page’s design process. i absolutely love the idea of this site.
Jonon 14 Jun 07
As for bleed thru….I keep pads of drawing paper near my desk. They have much thicker stock and you can use both sides. Also, the pads that I use are almost twice the size of a standard sheet of paper….like a desktop sized whiteboard. I do prefer to use the whiteboard because of the smell though.
Great point guys!
Chadon 15 Jun 07
What I see from the first sketch is that it automatically includes the padding/margins that will nearly always end up getting added…
Samon 15 Jun 07
This post had some pretty unexpected value. I would never have thought about that, and yet now I’ll forever be reaping the benefits of this post. This has to be one of the most useful blogs I’m subscribed to.
Daveon 15 Jun 07
I usually just use whatever I can find to sketch. However, if I’m discussing the designs with a colleague while drawing them, I like to use my whiteboard and then take a quick picture on my phone cam before wiping it clean to continue drawing.
seanon 15 Jun 07
most everything i do is with a sharpie. just thinking about an early design meeting i had today, from my bag i pulled two wide tip highlighters, 3 fine tip sharpies (all different colors) and my father’s cross pen. notes to myself were handled with my pen, all the design-side work was one with a sharpie. i am glad to read that i am not the only one that thinks this is a good way to display a UI….
Dhrumilon 15 Jun 07
Jason, I remember you mentioned this at the Getting Real work shop, but I never took it on. Our team does sketch more, but we’ve been using pens and I see how people worry too much about sketches when they are using pens. To the point that they will avoid sketching.
Thanks for the reminder. Sharpies from now on.
Jeff Crofton 15 Jun 07
I’m shocked and dissapointed no one has made the obvious joke about this being the reason 37s apps have such oversized text. :)
Teasing, of course.
Bazon 15 Jun 07
6B pencil for me
Seth Aldridgeon 15 Jun 07
I’m not sure you would say Jumping the Shark when there are 30 to 40 instant comments…at least I wouldn’t.
P.Aroraon 15 Jun 07
I like using Sharpie on a paper too but feel guilty wasting paper (I’m a environment friendly person) so prefer using the white board and have recently started using Denim, gives me electronic version of paper prototyping and much more – not sure if everyone is aware of it so here is the link – http://dub.washington.edu/denim/
Gianni Chiappettaon 15 Jun 07
I draw smaller as well. I usually sketch my first ideas on paper in a 7×6 cm box. That way I can draw several layouts next to each-other quickly and compare them. After that I usually do extremely basic wireframes (to scale) in photoshop, if I’m developing a web app I’ll do a wireframe interaction model. Then comes the mockup, then the final design.
One thing I’ve found though, I never use the Slice Tool to export my jpegs. I hate it! I use a combination of guides an Copy Merged. I find it a lot more flexible.
tom schreiberon 15 Jun 07
wow good to see such an impassioned telling of sharpie stories – haha i’ve been using sharpies more and more in my art now for close to 7 years. this summer i’ve launched a benefit project for nrdc in which i’m going to be making 1000 drawings of lots of people interested in doing something for the planet – and all of those drawings will be made with sharpies – just something about them. i see what you all are talking about. cheers all! -tom
Travison 15 Jun 07
I went to a short seminar on composition for comic book art at Wizard World Chicago a few years ago and the artist teaching also recommended the fattest Sharpie possible for thumbnailing.
Get the shapes down.
Don’t draw, as you said.
Nathan Bowerson 15 Jun 07
Instead of fatter markers I use smaller paper (index cards). As a bonus you can chunk out individual interface pieces and rearrange them on the fly.
Wowon 15 Jun 07
Yawn… too busy trying to finalize the valuation to write anything with a purpose.
Sometimes, when I need to complete a bowel movement, I wipe with my UI sketch that I did with a charcoal pencil. It works better than those I do with crayon because there is no wax to get caught up in the tiny hairs.
Just kidding guys, you rock!
Don Schenckon 15 Jun 07
Don Schenckon 15 Jun 07
Respiro Mediaon 16 Jun 07
In my humble opinion, no one should use a recommended tool just because it’s… recommended.
No one will design a better layout just because using Sharpie…
RJon 16 Jun 07
Apparently someone else thinks you’ve gone a little overboard, but parody is the highest form of flattery, right?
Darrenon 17 Jun 07
I still prefer a dry erase board with an as-thick-as-I-can-find dry erase marker. This is of course largely used for quick renderings of UIs rather than to UIs that need revisiting.
Shaneon 17 Jun 07
I like sharpies! I also like whiteboards. It’s a real pain when you forget that the two do not mix well!
Jakeon 18 Jun 07
I prefer using gauche on glass
Janon 18 Jun 07
I’m using a dark gray Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pen. I prefer small sketch/scrapbooks to draw in.
CJ Curtison 19 Jun 07
Speaking of Sharpies…
Anyone every notice that the tips of them get crushed and the lines get TWICE as thick within a few weeks, but they keep writing for another 6 months?
Pisses me off :(
Andrew Whiteon 20 Jun 07
Ad agency Leo Burnett uses the line “Big Ideas come out of Big Pencils”. A friend of mine who worked there had stacks of primary printers.
This discussion is closed.