2 minute read time.

In the throes of our digital epoch, numerous designers find themselves gravitating towards the virtual oasis of computer-aided design (CAD) software (including myself) to breathe life into their brainchildren. CAD, with its plethora of benefits, is indeed a powerful tool in the designer's arsenal. However, let us not forsake the craft of design sketching, a skill that, when paired with digital tools, can significantly enrich the design journey. 

The magic of design sketching resides in its inherent simplicity. It allows the wielders to rapidly navigate through the labyrinth of ideas and concepts in a manner that even the most advanced CAD software might struggle to emulate. Sketching serves as a tangible medium for the swift iteration and exploration of design ideas, devoid of the complexities of intricate software. It's like having a chat with your ideas, making alterations as the conversation unfolds. 

Not only does sketching excel in speed, but it also acts as a universal translator, effectively communicating the designer's vision to clients, colleagues, and stakeholders. Time, that elusive entity, often eludes us when we desperately need it. In such instances, a sketch might be your knight in shining armour, conveying your ideas swiftly and clearly. 

Moreover, design sketching could be considered the first stepping stone in the pathway of turning nebulous ideas into tangible reality, even before the prospect of 3D modelling is entertained. Sketching enables designers to pour their ideas onto paper, refining them before delving into the time-consuming and resource-intensive world of 3D modelling. This approach not only conserves precious time and finances but also paves the way for exploring a wider spectrum of ideas and design variations. 

Design sketching also unleashes the shackles of creative confinement. CAD, despite its numerous virtues, might inadvertently steer designers into a monotonous design routine, bound by the software's inherent constraints. On the other hand, sketching offers an unfettered creative playground. It encourages designers to venture beyond the proverbial box, experimenting with a smorgasbord of shapes, forms, and proportions, free from the limitations imposed by software. 

In essence, while CAD emerges as a formidable ally in the designer's journey, it's essential not to consign the art of design sketching to oblivion. Design sketching is a complementary craft that facilitates speedy iteration, effective communication, and the creative exploration of concepts. Thus, when embarking on your next design project, consider embracing the humble pencil, letting it dance across the paper, outlining your vision before resorting to CAD. 

So, design engineers, the question is: do you see the inherent value in sketching, starting with the humble pencil before transitioning to the more complex realm of CAD?

Thank you for reading. 


  • Hello Lisa, thank you for your comments. That is a great idea, and something i will look into, thank you for sharing. I think the concept is the same, the process of free-hand to digitisation is anyway. For me, the greatest benefit in being able to translate ideas into legible sketches is during design meetings. Ideas fly around these meetings and can be missed if not described well enough. But, a simple sketch (on paper, iPad or whiteboard, etc.) of a concept allows a greater audience to understand your thoughts, and quickly.

    This is why i believe that for anyone in the design space, engineers in particular must have basic sketching skills. Of course, this varies by discipline and can be much more important for a building surveyor, than a software engineer, for example. 

  • A friend of mine is a Building Surveyor and will always do a pencil sketch first and then draw it out in CAD.  

    I use an iPad app called Procreate to create digital artwork and sometimes will sketch out something on paper first. It's then really easy to snap a quick photo of the sketch, again using my iPad, and then use that image as a base layer in the app in order to digitise it. Slight smile