Behavior/Experience Reading W2

Reading Takeaways
10 October 2016

“Sketching User Experiences” Bill Buxton 2007.

  1. Sketching is an aid to design thinking; it is an artifact of the conversation between the real world and the designers’ mind.
  2. The result of ‘holes’ in a sketch is such that a sketch yields more than the effort of towards its inception. Sketches should be pregnant with clues.
  3. Sketches should be quick, timely, inexpensive, disposable, plentiful, clear in vocabulary, gestural, minimal in detail, appropriate in refinement, suggesting of exploration, and ambiguous.
  4. Sketches exist in a contextual environment–not a vacuum–as does experience.
  5. Designing with sketches is a process of generative creativity and reductive creativity; design teams must continually generate but always discard in a controlled convergence through the project completion.

While these descriptions of the space of a sketch, and its role in the design process, are critical for any project that I personally engage in, the last section on creative team dynamics seems very useful going into my final year. Design is rarely created solely through a human and computer interaction; it blossoms from human to human conversations first. All stakeholders should be at the table for design conversations and those people need to be made comfortable to share opinions and concerns. Design is a compromise. You must be a functioning part of a team that is as excited to fail as they are to succeed.


“[One can think of] sketches as a means of working through a design–sketching as an aid to thought.”

“Sketching is not the only archetypal activity of design, it has been thus for centuries.”

“[…] One can get more out of sketch than was put into making it because of its ambiguity.”

“If you want to get the most out of sketch, you need to leave big enough holes.”

“Sketching is fundamental to the cognitive process of design, and it is manifest through a kind of conversation between the designer(s) and their sketches” (Schön & Wiggins 1992).

“…sketching introduces a special kind of dialectic [conversation/dialogue] into design reasoning that is indeed rather unique. It hinges on interactive imagery, by a continuous production of displays [sketches] pregnant with clues […]” (Goldschmidt 1991).

“[Sketches] relate far more to an activity or process (the conversation), rather than a physical object or artifact (the sketch).”

“Being able to visualize things gave me a tool that I could use in all facets of life. What happened to my mind was much more important than the sketches I produced” (Hanks & Belliston 1990).

“Experience is a very dynamic, complex and subjective phenomena. It depends upon the perception of multiple sensory qualities of a design, interpreted through filters relating to contextual factors. […] The experience of even simple artifacts does not exist in a vacuum but, rather, in dynamic relationship with other people, places and objects. Additionally, the quality of people’s experience changes over time as it is influenced by variations in these contextual factors” (Buchenau & Suri 2000).

“Fail early and fail often. And learn.”

“Design is a choice, and there are two places where there is room for creativity: 1. The creativity that you bring to enumerating meaningfully distinct options from which to choose. 2. the creativity that you bring to defining the criteria, or heuristics, according to which you make your choices.”

“What one calls ‘genius’ is much less the contribution of the first, the one that collects the alternatives, than the facility of the second in recognizing the value in what has been presented, and seizing upon it” (Paul Valéry, as translated by Bill Buxton).

“We must generate and discard much more than we keep.” Pugh 1900 called this “controlled convergence”


“Prototyping is the Shorthand of Design” Tom Kelley 2001.

  1. Sometimes a childlike fascination with play is required for design: it is trial and then error and (only) then dramatic improvement.
  2. Bring several prototypes to meetings with clients. Bring interesting materials to client meetings spark the muse. The object or prototype permits conversations that reports obscure in the social, political and emotional blockades.  Prototypes are therefore also performance–for the client, as it is a conversation.
  3. Prototypes do not manifest as revolutionary findings; innovation is often incremental and evidence of a layered history of trials.
  4. Express your ideas through prototypes: quickly and cheaply.
  5. Prototype until you’re silly. They are the source of creative insurance that improves the designers’ chance of success.

This article presents a very clear argument for prototyping. The anecdotal stories serve to remind us that innovation is a disciplined, slow-burn game that must be institutionalized–direct orders from the top! For myself, Kelley’s account of historical accounts of success through prototypes is reassuring of the importance of company cultures that foster design thinking throughout all ranks. When I feel that iterating sketches and prototypes is cumbersome, reminding myself that building is learning makes the process feel much more crucial and sophisticated. The advice about stakeholders and clients in very important. Often when working with non-designers in a project, you must translate their objections into your design vocabulary. The prototype can be a useful boundary object to establish a aesthetic vocabulary that permits all team members to function and communicate uniformly.


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