As UX designers, sketching is part of our daily routine. It is our most natural way of communication. We are basically professional doodlers.
Using sketches to ideate and represent our ideas is an awesome technique for several reasons:
- Drawings, as opposed to words, are not “contaminated” by social signifiers and connotations.
- Pictures are placeholders for discussion and it can be interpreted in many different ways.
- When people sketch, they tend to focus on the constraints generated by this action and forget about real constraints of the world, making it great for ideation.
But when running ideation sessions with big, heterogeneous and hierarchical team, Is sketching a useful tool? Can we get great results from visual ideation sessions with our clients, devs, product owners, bank managers, hotel directors, etc.? How can we help them break the ice?
If making clients find value in an ideation workshop is already hard enough; how do we position one where they actually have to draw?
At the UXSG Meetup #21, we shared our past experiences and came up with some tips to run a fruitful visual ideation session.
SET THE DRAWING LEVEL REEEEAAAALLLY LOW
Collaborative sketching is not a drawing competition! Set a drawing standard and tell everyone that no one is supposed to draw better than that.
E.g: You can only use a circle on top of a triangle to represent a human. This will make your attendees be more comfortable with their drawings. You will probably have an artist amongst the group who intimidates everyone with his/her drawing skills. An ideation session should not be about the quality of the drawing but about the quantity of ideas. By setting the bar low, you create a safe creative environment.
Run a short warm up exercise before the session. Get the group to sit in a circle and they are to draw the person opposite them. When they are done, they will pass the paper to the right and the next person will add onto the drawing to complete it. This exercise, not only warms up the group, but also conveys that ideas are not owned by one person but by the group. Everyone can feel free to build on each other’s ideas.
Try using a smaller topic scope than a generic big challenge. When challenges are phrased too vaguely and wide, participants find it hard to start brainstorming and may feel paralysed instead of free.
Instead, try to scope it down, so that it becomes more imaginable and tangible for participants.
e.g. No: How might we solve people’s needs with IoT?
Do: How might we make this space we are in more accessible and friendly using IoT?
START WITH COMMON UNDERSTANDING
You can try asking the participants to write out all they know about the topic area using a collective concept map. This educates one another about the topic and generates a common base of understanding to start.
TIME BOX IT AND SPEED IT UP!
If you keep the pace fast, participants will not have the time to focus on making a beautiful and complete drawing. They will be too busy trying to get as many ideas as possible out in the given time period. This is a perfect outcome.
AND, AS ANY IDEATION SESSION, HAVE RIGID RULES
Never forget to present the principles for effective ideation. These are simple rules that help alleviate uncertainty amongst participants and generate a safe environment for creativity to happen.
SAY NO TO NO
Postpone your inner critic and resist the urge to judge the ideas as they flow out. There will be time for convergent thinking later.
BUILD ON TOP
Build on the ideas of others by saying yes! and adding onto their ideas. Innovations are usually created by a network of ideas, built upon each other – often in unpredictable ways.
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
At the very beginning, participants need to focus on getting out as many ideas as possible rather than on the quality of the ideas. Refinement comes later.
WE (HEART) TEAM
Ideas belong to everyone in the team and not individuals. More ‘we’ and ‘our’, instead of ‘I’ and ‘my’.
Yian Ling Cheong & Lu De Pasquale