Design talk about the value of sketching and digital tools. With Martijn van de Wiel and his class |TIP117

Martijn Van de Wiel is an Industrial Design teacher at Eindhoven University of Technology – I was pleased to be invited as a guest to converse with him and his sketching class. We did a Skype call Singapore – Netherland and had a great time sharing some points about Product Design and Photoshop.

This course is about the value of sketching and digital tools in the creative process. Introduction Design Sketching Class - Martijn
Martijn Sketching class in Netherland – Industrial design, 2nd year

Quick introduction

Martijn is the creator of the popular Facebook page: Design sketching and founder of Sketchdrive. is a web application that connect Design teacher with students online. Martijn gave me a special account for a day for me to share some extra comments and correction to his students’ works.

Using Sketchdrive was definitely a great experience !


“Explore various field of Design

and apply for internship abroad !“


Otaku-SonyPreparing a mood board for my master degree – Otaku, Japan. (I was inspired by my internship in Japan)

Martijn started by asking me about my background.


In couple of words, my two main passion in life are Industrial Design and Travelling. From my student time, I did what I could to merge both – by exploring different field of design such as Fashion, cars, footwear… in different countries in Los Angeles, Japan, Germany…

Question 1

How to get prepared for rendering
light and shadow on a bend surface ?

Design Sketching class Martijn aQ/A session with Industrial design students


“If you wonder how light and shadow works, bend a piece of paper.”

  • Imagine your object in 3D drawn with wireframes. That will help you to see your drawing in volume. Draw some key points with a light pen pressure.

  • To help you visualise the light effect: bend a piece of paper and observe the light reflection on it – how it diffuses on it. The light reflection will change depending of the angle.

  • Take inspiration from your daily life objects. It’s easy, it costs nothing and it’s accurate. Surprisingly, a simple piece of paper itself is rich of information.

Light reflection on curved paper - plain

1- Take a piece of paper.


Light reflection on curved paper

2- Bend the paper to see the light reflection on it. Explore different angle.

Question 2

What is your favourite process to sketch and render ?

Design Sketching class Martijn bQ/A session with Industrial design students

  • First of all, my strength is not much into markers rendering. My strength is more in digital.
  • I start drawing by hand sketch or Sketchbook Pro. I love this software because of its beautiful and fluid lines.
  • I choose to do the rendering in Illustrator or Photoshop depending of the project.
  • I can also mix both software: using Illustrator to retrace the drawing, then using Photoshop for the rendering.

Question 3

To draw reflection, do you have a pattern in mind or do you “guess” the effect ?


“Observe your daily surrounding.”

Double curve surface

  • I think more we practice more it become natural to see the right things.
  • Taking existing objects around ourselves is a good start. Instead of guessing, look at similar things around you first. You could find there your wanted effect.

    eg. A razor, a book, a phone… anything.

  • We actually understand the logic of it quite fast.
    Observe carefully, and you will give appropriate effect to your rendering.

    eg. Depending of the surface, the light reflection is different if it’s mat or shine.

Question 4
How to project a text on a surface ?


Trying to explain how to project a text included in a rectangle frame…

  1. Include your text or logo in a rectangle frame
    Rectangle frame for logo

  2. Draw the shape of the object you want to apply your text on. Eg. a cylinder.
    A very quick cylinder

  3. Draw the rectangle on that surface
    A very quick cylinder with the recangle frame on it
  4. Create a grid on both Frame rectangle and cylinder

    Grid on the recangle on both Frame and cylinder

  5. Use the intersection points of the grid as reference to report your text/logo points. Then connect the dots.

Note: More points your grid have, more precise your logo will be.

Question 5

Is it the same for a double curved surface ?
eg: the surface of a car.


  • Yes it’s about the same.


  • There is a tool in Photoshop: the ”warp tool”.


  • Imagine that your logo is going to spread, “like a fisheye somehow”.
  • More we practice, more our brain will get used to it and become natural.

    Warp tool on paper illustration

Question 6

Do you use 3D software like Rhino or Solidworks ?


  • No. I decided to not focus on 3D software even though I recommend students to do so. “So, that’s my bad”. It was my personal choice knowing that in the footwear industry we don’t use any.
  • However, I did have colleagues and classmates that was very good at both sketching and 3D software. (They all start to sketch before going to 3D)

Question 7

How do you compensate that ?

“Sketching is the base of everything”

3D Yantram

3D Yantram – From sketch to 3D

  • I compensate by improving my sketching skills.
  • Sketching allows you to get an instant “drawing conversation” with a client or colleague – with sketches, you can make multiple proposal fast – and readjust on the spot. A 3D software can’t possibly do as fast and spontaneous.

Counter example: 

Philips is a brand I admire. One day, a head hunter invited me to meet them for a position as a Product designer to join the R&D. Each designer there handle a project from initial sketch to product rendering. They need to have sharp skills on both. Unfortunately, I didn’t fit the profile.

If you master 3D software, you will definitely open more doors for your career.

However, please do not neglect your sketching learning. That’s the base of everything.

Question 8

In footwear industry, does 3D software isn’t common ?

Sneaker sketch - theDesign Sketchbook
Quick sketch of an Adidas sneaker, Chung Chou-Tac

  • People who use 3D software in footwear industry are actually engineers.
    eg. for creating an outsole, we need to open a mould. For that the engineering team will create the outsole in 3D from our 2D documents. It’s a teamwork.

Note: I tried some 3D software specialised in footwear. To me, these software are not good enough yet for designers. Even if there was a promising function to draw directly on the 3D last. The 3D tools was like one of the very first generation of 3ds max.

However, the pattern making function works well for the technical team.

Question 9

Do you draw on top of 3d printed files ?


“To communicate your ideas,
don’t hesitate to be creative”


  • I didn’t experienced that myself, but yes we can print out some screenshot from the 3D software and redraw on it.  It’s possible.


  • I actually had this experience myself with an engineer. He asked me “What curve do you need ?” And he gave me a pen. So I traced the curve on the screen, and the engineer make it match directly on the 3D software.


  • That remind me a situation when I was in Japan for my internship for Daihatsu, in the car industry.
  • Each intern designer was working with 1 or 2 specialists of Clay model. But the modelling team didn’t speak English or very little – at that time I didn’t know anything about Japanese!
  • We speak with the lesser number of words (more words = more confusion)
  • So we speak with hands showing the curves we wanted, and added some sound to express the acceleration of the curves such as: “vooOOM”. It was like 2 kids talking each other. But it works !

Question 10

Does designers use 3D software at Daihatsu ?daihatsu-pico-concept

Daihatsu Pico Concept – In Japan culture, they love small and practical cars – They say compact car.

  • The design team start a project providing sketches.
  • We had a team of engineer to handle 3D.
  • For example we created a wheel rim by sketch. Then a team created it in 3D.
  • After checking, the file was sent to the laser printer.

Question 11

Do you think 2D sketching is more creative than working in 3D ?

Photoshop Sony Glove Research
Hand and glove study – Master degree Otaku, Japan – Chung Chou-Tac

  • I am tempted to say yes.
  • Nowadays 3D software are still not that user friendly for people who don’t know how to sketch.
  • We need to compensate with other tools such as Poser, ZBrush which allow to start with existing model that we can modify.
  • Again if we got something in mind that has no reference with existing things, we may face a harder time to create them.

Question 12

Can you tell us more about your workflow ?


“Draw on paper to better share your ideas.”

Adidas shoe sketch blue lead
Adidas sketch I made in less than 20 minutes on a draft paper. (Blue lead mechanical pencil)

  • I guess a question you may wonder is it better to start on paper or digital ?
  • I like to start on paper (especially for a team work).
  • You can draw anywhere, and brainstorm anytime. You don’t have to worry about saving the file, opening it, looking for it… to retrieve your ideas.
  • Paper is great for sharing ideas with people:
    I remember a documentary about Pixar’s. Anything created on computer are printed to be reviewed by the team. The drawing was not anymore “virtual”. Printed, it became reality.
  • The way we flip pictures from an Ipad screen and paper are completely different. You spend more time to appreciate a design on paper.

Question 13

How do you manage your portfolio ?



“Start early, and get ready to share your sketches to the outside world.”


  • I have an article in the blog where you can get information about it:
    How do you turn your portfolio in a Marketing weapon.
  • When I was student we learned to prepare our portfolio early. I remember how difficult it was to make a portfolio while our sketches was still super clumsy. We wonder how it would be possible to show such drawings to professionals… If our drawings didn’t deserved to be shown, how could we apply for internship ?
  • We had to face the reality. It was actually a good thing, and forces us to be down to earth. It gave us an “outside reality” to our drawings – getting out of our “student bubble”.
  • So we was motivated to improve our skills, as we knew already that they would be shared to the outside world. It was not anymore simple sketches made at school – but an investment for our career.


“Wanna get noticed ? Create a special project for them !”

  • Put the best project at the beginning. Best means most accurate to the company you apply for.
  • If you love so much a company, and you really want to get the position, don’t hesitate to create a project for them. They will appreciate.

Question 14

Which shortcut to take to learn Photoshop ?


“Learn together to improve faster.”

Design Sketching Martijn d

  • When I started, there was some tutorials about Photoshop, but NOT about Product design. So I learned by trying and experimenting.
  • A Computer graphic magazine helped me at start. It was Computer Arts.
  • You guys are about 40 people. You are all trying to figure out the right techniques. It’s a strength to share among yourselves. Its like a Master mind. Take advantage of this, together you will learn faster.

Question 15

You shared this morning a lot of feedbacks to students’ works. It’s fantastic. (I used to give comments and correction)

Is there any general mistakes that you apply to more people ?


“Look at a table and draw it upside down.”

Gilman square table
Gilman Square Coffee table

  • I would say the right application of perspective, the centre line…
  • But especially the ability to see things in transparency.
  • For example if you see a table in front of you, as a product designer, you should be able to decompose that table in 3D shapes and redraw it Upside down.
  • Drawing anything in any angle is the ultimate objective that we can have.


“Learn human proportion to get a correct proportion
for your transportation product.”

Human proportion
Human proportion and poses study


  • Drawing a product is one thing. Its also important to spend some time to learn how to draw people with correct proportion.
  • The student project was about creating a new Cargo Water Scooter. Some people was not drawing people in scale, so it affected the design of the scooter proportion itself.
  • If you really have hard time, pose yourself in different positions and ask your friend to take you in pictures !


  • There is also the “reflection coming from below”.


    • The bounce light.


“The bounce light makes a lot of difference

to your rendering.”

Bounce light


  • It’s the light that reflect the ground to your object below.
  • When I discovered this, it changed a lot of things ! It’s really nothing. you spend just 30 second more on it and your render become so much more smooth.
  • An other thing, is to add some thin ray of light, of tiny edges of your products. Your render will look more realistic. But try to do not abuse of them.
  • Remember that less is more. When I was beginner I put in too many shadows, lights..  because I didn’t understand the light, where it come from…


Do you have any question for us ?


Why did you choose to be Product designer ?

Student with blue T-shirt.

  • I just want to be creative, and enhance my skills. So that’s perfect. I have been doing artist for a while. I have been in product design because it’s more applied. I would love to see my design in real.

Student with a grey shirt:

  • I would say it’s about creating and overcoming obstacles.
  • Doing that all, trying the process of giving emotion to the product.
  • There is job such as engineering that is very challenging technically but that doesn’t have this emotion. I feel it doesn’t have this artist part in it.

“Product design is not only about technical, but about emotion.”

Studebaker Avanti, preliminary sketch. “We know that logic alone does not sell automobiles, so its immediate appeal is emotional.” Said Raymond Loewy


  • I fully agree with this. Everything is emotional.
  • We are not creating for robots, but humans. All decision we make – driven by logic or not, are made by emotion.
  • There is more and more diversity of people.
  • As a Product designer, we have to be empathic and think of what they need. This is the add value that we can give as a designer is to think about psychology and sociology.


  • Thank you and see you.


  • See yah !

Thank you Martijn for inviting me at this conversation. I hope it was helpful to your students. Wish you guys all the best !

If you guys have some more questions, feel free to let a message in the comment box below or send me an email at [email protected]. If I can help, I will. 😉






















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About The Author


Hello ! My name is Chou-Tac. I am a product designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim to help you all along with your design projects and journey. Anytime, feel free to leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at [email protected] : )


  • Renata

    Reply Reply May 18, 2015

    wuuuuauuuu tu nous caches plein de petite toi!
    Ca c’est un super article!

    Great great great. thats a really interesting way to interact

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply May 18, 2015

      Ahah merci Renata 🙂 C’est une belle experience de discuter avec des etudiants, meme si c’est par Skype ! 🙂

  • Martijn van de Wiel

    Reply Reply April 10, 2015

    Chou-Tac, this is great! You actually typed out our whole conversation! Thx again for sharing your insights and experience with us!

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply April 10, 2015

      Yeah, it took me a bit of time to type it, eheh. I believe this conversation is valuable for many young designers.
      I was honoured to be invited at your class to share with you guys !

      • Vishal Hemanth V

        Reply Reply April 11, 2015

        Chou-Tac, Thank you! This is a great article of QnA for many budding designers to pick points from. I’m a great fan of Martijn and his videos on sketching. It would be great honour and my pleasure to work with either of you.

        • Chou-Tac

          Reply Reply April 13, 2015

          My pleasure Vishal. Thank you for your kind words. I am pretty sure that Martijn will appreciate as well. 🙂
          See yah !

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