Draw Something! a great game to keep designers sharp

As an industrial design student, I remember that I had a hard time during sketching classes. Not because I can’t doodle, but because I was asked to “sketch” and NOT to “draw“, which is quite a different thing.

Sketching is all about conveying the message in a quick and simple way; a tool designers use to quickly explore possibilities. And my biggest problem was always that I wanted to draw, to end up with a presentation drawing as close to my intention as possible, no room for error. I had the hardest time committing to a stroke because I felt it had to be perfect or not be at all, and of course I hated the fact that they were forcing me to sketch with ink fine-liners (not much erasing there I’m afraid…). It was quite frustrating and up to this day I’m bugged by it.

But a recent game on the mobile front might help me change that.

My rendition of "The Beatles"

I’m talking about Draw Something, a simple yet surprisingly addictive little game available for iOS and Android. The premise is incredibly simple: you draw something and your friend guesses what it is, if you guess right, you get coins, which you can “spend” in buying new colours, etc.

The drawing tools are fairly limited with nothing but a few stroke sizes and a handful of colours to begin with, without a doubt a strategy by the developers to get you to either play more to earn coins and buy new colours, or cough up some real cash up front to buy as an in-app purchase. There’s no undo button either, so a stroke is a stroke. And of course, forget about things like layers, gradients, masks or what-nots (we designers from the digital age have been pampered too much by the likes of Photoshop and Painter).

But herein lies the key for this game to be such a great tool to keep designers sharp. Because of the limitations, you have to be creative (how the hell do you sketch “grass” if you don’t have the colour green???); if you’re playing on a phone, your chubby fingers become a problem too! (luckily I play on my tablet so space is less of an issue); and of course, it’s a casual back-and-forth game so you don’t want to spend hours on a drawing, you rather want to “sketch” it.

As I start mastering the game, my rendition of "Hot sauce" is more sophisticated

The game itself might not improve your sketching skills, but it can train you to concentrate on the important things that you want to sketch to convey a message. It reminded me of an exercise I’ve done a couple of times in preparation for creative workshops: napkin drawings. Say you are having a workshop related to grooming products, and you ask your participants to make a drawing on a napkin of how their bathrooms look like. Drawing on a napkin helps the participants to feel more at ease with doodling something even if it’s not pretty, and by asking them to draw it instead of for example asking for a photo of their bathrooms, you can identify what things are really important to them since they only draw what they retain on their memory and leave out all the “noise”.

Draw Something can also help you develop other skills such as optimal use of limited resources (colours, brushes, etc.) and how to better interpret other people’s ideas. It can help you not only to think creatively for your own sketching and communication, but to learn from others trying to do the exact same thing.

So if you’re up for it, look me up (my email david @guiza.net) and let’s doodle a bit!