How to succeed making ugly doodles! | TIP 174

TIP 174 How to succeed making ugly doodles - The design sketchbook - Product design and industrial design sketching tutorial

Hey guys!

How are you today?

I just went back from my Calystehnic class. (If you may wonder what is it about, it’s also called Street workout or Gym using bodyweight.) It’s now resting time, and I take a “few” minute to write this article.

Sketching in the rush!!

The sketch below is what I drew just before going out 3 hours ago. I was in the rush. I didn’t want to be late for my class, but I also wanted to draw that camera so bad with my speed technique. So I sit, calm down and draw. Life’s tiny pleasure can’t wait right?

I didn’t expect I would draw that fast.
I completed both within 5 minutes! I drew the first on the left, then I saw I still have a couple of minute more – so I did the second one in even more rush. That’s why it’s a bit more awkward that the first. Hehe. Whatever! Haha.

TIP: When you draw wrongly and feel frustrated: Smile and tell yourself: “Whatever I will do better”. That’s logic, because the human is by nature in a perpetual learning process.

Sony Ugly doodle - fast sketching - The Design

Make Ugly doodles – This sketch is full of imperfections but full of learning

Urban sketching style inspired!

It’s a method I sometime use when I draw urban sketching. I go straight to the essential with a minumum of construction lines. 

It’s not always easy to know when a sketch is good enough – that we should stop adding details. Before you start drawing, try to define roughly what is your expectation.

For this first draft, I didn’t aim to do a good sketch, but gather quality information. That sketch is FULL of imperfection, so many things go wrong with it. But, I don’t care. When you do these kind of preliminary research at work, you don’care about perfection. It doesn’t worth the time neither the effort anyway. It’s not about being lazy, but good management of your ressources. It’s ugly, so what. Nobody will see them. But only YOU! As long as your sketches have meaning to you. You win.

If my expectation was drawing something perfect in one shot I would have fail anyway. But with a maximum frustration as a rotten cherry on the top of the cake – because I would have wasted 3 hours on it (and missed my calysthenic class :P).

Draw with iteration

There is no magic in sketching, we need to train, and redraw the same thing again and again multiple times to succeed. That’s why when you see senior designer’ sketches, you say Wahh ! And you are maybe drooling of admiration but maybe also feel miserable. 🙁 It’s because you have never seen all the series of bad sketches they did before! So keep up! You will also do your share of bad sketches! Like them, you won’t publish them on Internet. Hehe.

This conversation come from a podcast I had with Nick Huber from, about the importance of sketching for a designer.  I highly recommend you to listen to his advices about the real world.

Sketch like a puzzle.

puzzle man.pngLet’s use the puzzle as a metaphore.
I purposely draw this Sony camera super bad & fast so my brain could register the main informations. The pieces I have in my mind are now like a puzzle. It’s still blurred, but that’s ok. I can visualise a lens, a button, a flash, a plug… and have a rough perception of their position. I start to visualize them in 3D.

The next step is to carry on sketching more ugly doodles – taking all the puzzle pieces (the camera elements) assembling them well each other with more precision. I will use fundamental techniques such as perspective, proporation, transparency vision, axis to align the puzzle pieces nicely.

Every time you do an extra Ugly doodle, the image of the product get clearer in you mind. So your sketches will get sharper and sharper. This is called drawing by iteration. 

TIP: Go through these 2 distinct phases, and you will rise you rate of success – and low your rate of stress. For that, you have to accept you are no magician, there is no innate talent involved, but work and passion. 

Prepare yourself to create and draw from imagination

Always spot the function such as: Zoom, lighting, recording, stabilizing… so you give sense to the product. You don’t sketch for the sake of just reproducing things. As a designer, you want to create by yourself, not only copy existing things.

So, remember to identify the functions. I mean: do not only think button, flash, lens. But photo capture, lighting, zoom, photo recording, stabilizing… Why? Basically all the details can be replaced by any type of shape. You may want later to keep the same basic functions, but redraw a new product with a different language of forms. Vice versa.

For example, what if you design a camera:

  • for kids: bold forms, colorful, soft material, indestructible, safe
  • for rock climbers: tough, 360º view, emergency call and rescue set
  • a flying spy camera: light, silencious, change colour acoording to the sky colour
  • for fire fighters: heat and water resistant with a human visual detector in the dark and human voice detector)…

Possibilities are infinite! 

Take a shortcut with underlay

You can also take a shortcut using the ugly doodle as an underlay. It’s a super common practice among designers. It’s NOT cheating. Oh ok, its cheating, but it’s allowed and there is no shame for it! 🙂 Believe me, in case you reject this idea, you might handicap yourself for very long. (I did that mistake when I was student, till I saw other students more beginner than  I was making greater stuff)

You are free to use transparent paper, or scan it and import it in your favourite sketching software such as Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro or Mischief for example.

Icons Mischief Sketchbook Pro Photoshop.png

Must have designer software for sketching: Mischief, Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop

I did that sketch on my Wacom, a trick would be adding a paper on top of the screen, and using the retro lighting of the screen to redraw on top – like a luminous table ! 😀 (It’s a bit blur, but I can scale the sketch as many times as I wish!

Remember there is no magic.

Ugly doodles have to be combined with the fundamentals of drawing!! Start learning with perspective and simple volumes in 3D. 🙂 Otherwise, even after 3546 ugly doodles, it will be the same as the first one. Ok? So don’t get grumpy.

Better your master your fundamentals, better your Ugly doodles will look good at start. Be patient, and be driven by your passion.

The ugly doodles will help you gain confidence and stop you from your perfectionism tendency. Feel free to make a try at Ugly doodles anytime. It’s still a lot of fun anyway!

Have fun!

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About The Author


If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my career, I believe that they can also help you to learn, and help you with your projects. Whether Design is a job or a hobby it doesn’t matter, so long as you do what is important to you.


  • Luciana

    Reply Reply July 16, 2016

    Thanks for these tips, drawing is my passion,regardless of the field !

  • rooben

    Reply Reply May 9, 2016

    Thanks Chou-Tac for bringing up that raw skill which seems forgotten nowadays 🙂

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply May 9, 2016

      Hey Rooben,

      My pleasure.
      I believe traditional methods such as sketching is one of the most fun and creative part of being a designer though. Hopefully more people join the game. 🙂

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