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Sketchcamp Grand Rapids designs sellout

July 29, 2013
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Sketchcamp Grand Rapids designs sellout
The idea behind Sketchcamp Grand Rapids stems from the San Diego-based user experience community group, UX Speakeasy. Photo via

Design associations AIGA West Michigan and IxDA Grand Rapids, together with digital agency Universal Mind, recently presented the first Sketchcamp Grand Rapids.

The Sketchcamp initiative started in San Francisco and has since migrated to Chicago and SXSW — and now Grand Rapids.

The idea originated out of the San Diego-based user experience community group, UX Speakeasy.

The purpose of the conference is traditionally focused on user experience, or UX, but the Grand Rapids event made its goal to provide instruction on a variety of techniques, at the introductory level, so participants could roll up their sleeves and explore the options available.

Despite being the city’s first Sketchcamp event, this month’s conference, at 38 West Fulton’s Tech Hub, sold out and had a lengthy waiting list for the event with six presenters and workshops.

Individuals with a variety of design backgrounds, marketing and business professionals and a handful of students, spent the day re-connecting with their sketchpads.

Several of the attendees traveled from other parts of the state, including some from as far north as Traverse City, and one attendee flew in from California.

The messy art of UX sketching

As the morning kicked off, presenter Peiter Buick submitted one of the day’s key points, which would be reinforced repeatedly by the other presenters.

“Sketching does not equal drawing, just as writing does not equal penmanship,” he said.

Instead, Buick said that sketching is a rough or unfinished version of creative work, and its purpose is communication, not art.

He highlighted experiments that have shown the more finished a design looks, regardless of whether it is presented as a draft or not, the less likely someone is to suggest changes.

So when seeking colleague or client feedback, sketching can be a valuable tool for reaching the desired outcome.

Sketching also focuses the client on the design elements and not on elements like color or other conversations that should be discussed at a later stage in the project and often serve as early distractions.

Peiter Buick’s usefulness of sketching

  • The fastest way to iterate, build upon and share ideas
  • Forces you to focus on solutions
  • Facilitates the appropriate level of feedback
  • Encourages collaboration
  • Gives you the ability to quickly add context to what you’re doing

Sketch typography

Molly Jaques is a local calligrapher and hand-lettering designer who regularly uses sketching as part of her process.

Her presentation focused on the three main aspects of her process when tackling client work: brainstorming, which focuses on developing the personality of the work and is akin to an artist working on a figure drawing; tailoring, where she takes the work chosen by the client and begins to finalize it, though not completely, so that there is still room for client feedback; and then, finalizing the drawing, which includes ink drawing or the vector image portion of the project.

Jaques also highlighted the point of not finalizing the work too soon and the challenge that finalizing presents in terms of losing detail or the feeling initiated by the sketching.

Seeing the lines of life

During his presentation, David Fik asked the question, “How many people here like to try new things?”

Several hands went up in response to the question, and Fik laughingly called out those individuals as not telling the truth.

Fik noted that brain studies have shown that humans are actually wired to not like doing new things and the same portion of the brain that deals with trying something new is also the part of the brain that processes pain. Thus, “change is pain.”

As a result, the brain creates shortcuts, such as symbols and reinforced methods, which can be damaging to creativity.

Because of the way the brain naturally functions, Fik said the question should be, “How can we confound the hemispheres?”

He presented sketching as a tool for achieving that objective.

Sketchcamp Grand Rapids presenters

Jeff Reushel: Sketch + Design Thinking

David Fik: Learning how to see the lines of life through pencil and paper

Peiter Buick: The Messy Art of UX Sketching

Veronica Erb: Learning to Sketch through Sketchnoting

Molly Jaques: Sketch Typography

Chad Martin: Storyboarding Experiences: More Story, Less Bored

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